Diana Alaniz and her family had become so frustrated with their housing situation in southwest Detroit that they were ready to move back to Texas. They had come here a year ago. Diana’s husband Franco is a cement laborer and was drawn to Detroit by the construction upsurge. Diana and Franco tracked an opportunity to create a better life for their family, but housing issues nearly derailed their dream.
For low to moderate income families, finding a decent and affordable house to rent in the city has become very challenging. At the same time, too many rental houses are ill-maintained and are harming already struggling neighborhoods. Affordable homeownership is a key to helping families and neighborhoods build a more secure future.
Southwest Solutions’ Newberry Homes project is an innovative initiative to transition 60 rental houses into affordable homeownership. Newberry is an eight-block area in the Chadsey-Condon neighborhood in southwest Detroit. Most of the 60 houses are occupied, and the current renters have priority in purchasing the homes after repairs are made. The other houses had been vacant, and Southwest Solutions is revitalizing them for sale to eligible families.
Diana learned about one of the vacant Newberry houses undergoing renovation through her own resourcefulness. She then stopped by there while Southwest Solutions’ YouthBuild program was working on the home, and she inquired about buying it when the work was finished.
Diana was referred to Southwest Solutions’ staff who oversee the Newberry project, and they informed her about the requirements to qualify for a mortgage for the home. Diana then completed the Homebuyer Education class at Southwest Solutions, met with a financial coach, and assembled all the necessary documents.
She and her husband closed on the home this week and will soon be moving in with their three kids. Their monthly mortgage payments, which include taxes and insurance, are close to what they were paying in rent for a house that was beset with problems.
“We’ve never been homeowners before, and we’re excited to have a place of our own,” said Diana, who is 34. “The home is beautifully renovated, and I can’t wait to start my flower garden in the yard. We think that the neighborhood will continue to get better as more people become homeowners and take care of their properties.”
Now that the family has decided to make Detroit their home, Diana is starting to work on her own career goals. She has enrolled in Southwest Solutions’ bank teller training course that will begin in the fall. There is great demand for bilingual tellers at the local branches.
“There are many opportunities in the city and we’re happy that we get to stay here,” Diana said. “We also enjoy the many different cultures that make up southwest Detroit.”
Diana’s family is the eleventh to become homeowners through the Newberry project. Two other families closed on their homes shortly before Diana.
Verion Walker had been renting her house for nearly ten years before attaining homeownership. Verion had not considered becoming a homeowner before because she was focused on higher education for her four children. Three have already graduated from college, and the last one is in college now. Verion works for the VA.
Under the terms of the Newberry initiative, Verion was able to buy her home for only $35,000. The purchase price of $55,000 was reduced by $20,000 because of a forgivable grant available to previous renters. In addition, she received down payment assistance thanks to a grant made possible by a generous donation from the Sam L. and Judith G. Yaker Fund. The Yaker Fund gave $2.6M to the Newberry initiative to promote affordable homeownership and neighborhood revitalization.
Verion signed a 15-year mortgage, and her monthly payments of about $500, with taxes and insurance rolled in, are less than what she was paying in rent.
This is the case, too, for Norma Fuentes, who also recently closed on her Newberry home. Norma and her three children had been renting the house for six years.
Norma came to Detroit from Puerto Rico about ten years ago. She aspired to become a homeowner, but she was unsure she would ever have the opportunity to make it happen.
“I was very emotional when I signed the paperwork to get the home,” Norma said. “We like living in the neighborhood. We have good neighbors, and the home is a good investment.”