Tanisha Allen received many letters and calls from Southwest Solutions encouraging her to consider buying the house she was renting on 28th Street.
She ignored the messages for many months.
“The deal seemed too good to be true and that’s why I was hesitant,” Tanisha said.
Tanisha lives in the Newberry area, which is part of the Chadsey-Condon neighborhood in southwest Detroit. Southwest Solutions acquired 60 houses in Newberry that were low-income rental properties and is transitioning them to affordable homeownership opportunities. The current occupants of the houses are given the first chance to make the purchase. The price is only $35,000, with certain conditions, after a forgivable grant available to previous renters. In addition, down payment assistance is available thanks to a $2.6M grant from the Sam L. and Judith G. Yaker Fund to help stabilize and revitalize Newberry through homeownership and neighborhood improvements.
When Tanisha closed on her home recently, she became the 8th resident to do so through the Newberry program. Tanisha and her partner Troy started renting the house seven years ago, just before their son was born. They estimate that they’ve paid more than $60,000 in rent over that time. Their mortgage is for 15 years and their monthly mortgage payment, with taxes and insurance included, is about half of what they were paying in rent.
Tanisha and Troy believe that the Newberry homeownership initiative will stabilize and strengthen the neighborhood, and they look forward to contributing to its revitalization.
“Some of the surrounding blocks have problems with blight, but our block is decent,” Troy said. “The people on this block are together and we look out for each other.”
Hours before Tanisha closed on her mortgage, Kiner Smith closed on hers. She moved into her Newberry house four years ago.
“I’m excited to become a homeowner because I’ve always wanted a place to call my own for me and my kids,” said Kiner, who is 31. “It makes an impression on them. They know if they work hard, they can become homeowners, too. My mom was a homeowner, and that definitely impressed me.”
Kiner works as a healthcare claims adjuster for an insurance company. She is also taking college courses to become a pharmacist.
Kiner had some debt and credit issues she had to address before qualifying for a mortgage. So after she completed the homebuyer education class at Southwest Solutions, which is a requirement for all prospective Newberry homebuyers, she met with a credit counselor at Southwest. The measures recommended by the counselor enabled Kiner to raise her credit score by 150 points, she said.
“Becoming a homeowner has helped me economically, especially because of the money I’m saving in rent and the equity I’m gaining,” Kiner said.
Grisca Joseph closed on her Newberry home about a week before Kiner. Grisca had been renting the house for 11 years.
“I was nervous about the closing because it’s a commitment and it’s the biggest purchase I’ve ever made,” Grisca said. “But it went smoothly, and when I came back home, I was very happy that it was mine now.”
Grisca raised two girls in the house, both of whom are college graduates. Before moving in, Grisca and her girls endured a bout of housing instability, following a divorce. Grisca persevered and completed a job-training program to learn a skilled trade. She then started working for an auto supplier, and continues to do so.
Like all the new Newberry homeowners, Grisca’s front porch was painted by volunteers on Neighborhood Beautification Day on June 1.
“The color is what I wanted, and it looks nice,” Grisca said. “Now that I own my place, I’m going to make some changes. I’ve always wanted hardwood floors, and now I can get them!”
Home Builders Association of Southeastern Michigan, an association of home builders and remodelers, awarded grant funds to Southwest Solutions that were used to make needed repairs on Grisca’s home.