“This is the best place I’ve ever lived,” says Charlotte Ketelhut.
Charlotte lives in one of the townhomes built by Southwest Housing Solutions in the Hubbard Farms community in southwest Detroit. The $8.2 million development project is called Hubbard Communities. It is comprised of 33 new single-family townhouses and 11 new single-family homes. All 44 units are now leased up.
Charlotte shares her townhome with two adult daughters who are living with disabilities. To accommodate their needs, Southwest Housing Solutions (SWHS) built a wheelchair ramp onto the back. The two-story townhome has three bedrooms, two baths and a basement.
“We needed a place that is very nice, affordable and has no maintenance worries,” Charlotte says. “Renting makes the most sense for us, but at the same time this still feels very much like home.”
“These are very desirable homes because of their modern amenities, energy-efficiency, and attractive entry ways,” says Tim Thorland, executive director of SWHS.
New single-family construction is an unusual development in Detroit these days, as neighborhoods cope with the foreclosure crisis, vacant properties and population loss. Hubbard Farms is considered one of the city’s most viable neighborhoods, but is also stressed by abandonment and blight fraying the fabric of the community.
The Hubbard Communities project is a significant development in repairing that fabric by strategically weaving new homes into once-distressed blocks in a way that matches the colorful and historic character of the neighborhood. The 44 “infill” homes replace empty lots and deteriorated properties that had threatened to spread and which had been quite disheartening to residents.
“These new homes definitely uplift and brighten the community and, hopefully, will lead to further development of affordable single-family homes in the neighborhood,” says Dan Loacano, with the Neighborhood Preservation Team at SWHS.
The Hubbard Communities project figures prominently in SWHS’ three-part neighborhood-revitalization strategy.
The first part of the strategy involves the rehabilitation of once-vacant apartment buildings into quality, affordable units. SWHS has renovated 13 apartment buildings in the Mexicantown area (that includes Hubbard Farms). There are now no vacant apartment buildings in this area.
The second part of the strategy involves the development of quality and affordable single-family homes to preserve and enhance the integrity of residential blocks.
Finally, SWHS is helping to engage residents in a community organizing effort to improve the neighborhood environment, public safety, city services, local schools, and other conditions that contribute to the quality of life in the community. To facilitate this effort, SWHS’ Neighborhood Preservation Team has been conducting a comprehensive survey of residents to assess their needs and determine the best ways to address them.
“The completion and leasing up of Hubbard Communities marks an important moment in our neighborhood revitalization plan,” Tim Thorland says. “Ultimately, our goal is to help create a thriving neighborhood where families want to live because of its vibrancy and diversity.”
Charlotte says she feels rooted in the neighborhood because of its growing sense of community and because others in her family live in the area. “I feel inspired here,” she says. “Come next spring, I want to plant a garden in our yard.”
Hubbard Communities was funded by Great Lakes Capital Fund, JPMorgan Chase,Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), NeighborWorks® Capital and the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department.