Three families in Newberry neighborhood celebrate becoming homeowners

May 1st, 2019
Lakeshia Averhart and her daughter Tania (left) at their Newberry home just after Lakeshia closed on her mortgage.

Though she has lived in the house for six years, Lakeshia Averhart felt “a whole different connection” when she stepped inside the familiar place two days ago.

It was now hers.

Lakeshia had just returned from signing her closing papers. In becoming a homeowner, she proudly felt that she had defied the odds.

“With all the struggles I’ve had in life, it wasn’t expected that I’d own a home, even though it was my dream,” said Lakeshia, who works as a supervisor for a security company. “I’ve always wanted a better life for my four kids. I know they are excited by their mom’s accomplishment and I hope it will inspire them to work hard and become homeowners, too.”

Lakeshia is the fifth resident in the eight-block Newberry neighborhood to transition from renter to homeowner under a unique Southwest Solutions’ program. Southwest Solutions acquired 60 single-family rental properties in Newberry, which is part of Chadsey-Condon, and is making them available for affordable homeownership. Current tenants are given the first opportunity to purchase the houses. The price is only $35,000, with certain conditions, after a forgivable grant available to renters. In addition, down payment assistance is available thanks to a $2.5M grant from the Sam L. and Judith G. Yaker Fund to help revitalize Newberry by fostering homeownership and creating neighborhood assets.

(top) Katrina Johnson signs her mortgage at Southwest Solutions, with her son at the table, too; (bottom) Katrina and her husband Delawn at their home just after the closing.

Two Newberry families (Daniele and Frances) bought their homes near the end of last year. Lakeshia is one of three residents who closed on their mortgages in the last week. The other two are Katrina Johnson and Liz Davis.

Katrina and her husband Delawn started renting their house in Newberry in 2001, just after its construction was completed. They raised four boys in the house, all of whom are pursuing higher education. Both Katrina and Delawn work for the Detroit Medical Center. Katrina is a mental health technician. Delawn is a transporter.

“When we first moved here, we had concerns about the area, but we haven’t had any problems about safety,” Katrina said. “The neighborhood is getting better. There’s a lot of opportunity, with the homeownership effort underway and the excitement of Ford moving into the old Train Station a couple of miles from here.”

Before qualifying for a mortgage, Katrina had to improve her credit, which was dinged by some unexpected issues. So Katrina worked with the financial coaches at Southwest Solutions after she completed our Homebuyer Education class, which all prospective homebuyers in the Newberry program must do.

“I was afraid that my credit was so messed up that we wouldn’t be able to get the home, but the financial coaches helped me raise my score by over 150 points,” Katrina said.

Now that she owns the home, Katrina and her husband are eligible to buy the two vacant side lots from the Detroit Land Bank for $100 each.

“We’re going to do so as soon as possible,” Katrina said. “We’re looking forward to hosting family picnics and neighborhood gatherings at our place!”

Liz Davis also closed on her Newberry home recently. Liz and her two children moved into the house a year and a half ago after a marital separation. Liz knows the neighborhood well. Her parents’ home, where she grew up, is only three streets away, and her parents still live there. Still, she was cautious about committing to owning the home.

Liz Davis at her Newberry home.

“I had to take the time to contemplate because it’s not the area where I thought we would eventually settle,” said Liz, who works in a medical office. “I consulted with my pastor, and he said it was a good opportunity and investment. I also talked with my mom, and she thought it was a good idea, too. Then I asked my kids if they like being here and wanted to stay longer. They said ‘yes.’ I always think about how to make things better for my kids. Since they feel at home here, I decided to buy.”

Liz had been paying $616 a month in rent for the three-bedroom home. Her monthly mortgage payment, with taxes and insurance included, is $150 less than that. It’s a 15-year mortgage. Not only is she saving money on her monthly housing costs, she is building equity and wealth, which will help her provide additional opportunities for her family’s future. She is also looking forward to decorating the home to suit her tastes.

“I’m going to paint the walls in my favorite colors and change the flooring,” Liz said. “We’re also going to fence the yard. The kids really want a dog, and now we can get one.”

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