Habitat's ambitious projects give an east side neighborhood hope
Published: December 19, 2012
The hope is to continue a transformation that's already well under way and having a noticeable effect.
Just down the street from the place the McQueen family will be moving into is a new house recently purchased through the same program by Clarissa Scott-Skinner.
The mother of three kids ranging in age from 3 to 11, Scott-Skinner, 35, works as a bank teller. Before moving to their new home she was renting a place on the west side. It was big and drafty and expensive to heat. It also cost her $600 a month to rent.
The cost of staying in her new home — mortgage, taxes and insurance — is $100 a month less. And, because it is super-energy efficient, she's saving another $100 a month on utilities.
But it's more than the extra money in her pocket, or the fact that she and her husband are now building equity in a home of their own instead of paying a landlord every month.
There is something about the security of having a place that is actually yours, explains Scott-Skinner. Even more special, she says, is the fact that she helped build it.
Sitting in the living room, she points to the front of the house, and recalls the day she helped hoist the frame for the front wall into place. It was in the summer of 2011, and it was hot and strenuous work, but she did it.
"And now it's mine," she says, a pride-filled smile spreading across her face. "And I helped to build it. That makes it very special to me."
"This has definitely changed my life for the better," she adds.
Her new neighborhood — she's lived here since April — is working-class to the core, and "we all look out for each other."
Like others participating in the Habitat home-buying program, she had to attend classes to learn about budgeting her finances, and what it takes to be a successful homeowner. And people with credit problems have to get those cleared away.
The program is designed to help ensure that the people moving in will have the skills and knowledge necessary to stay.
"It's not like they just hand you your keys and say, 'Here you go,'" is the way Scott-Skinner describes it.
Its all part of what might be described as one big narrative composed of many individual stories.
Drive down Lakepointe and you see one new vinyl-sided, well-kept home after another. "Look around," says Scott-Skinner, "and you see the progress that's being made for all of us."
And then there are the individual tales of the families occupying each one of those homes.
For Scott-Skinner, part of the story is that the financial stress that helped cause her and her musician husband to separate back when they were renting has been alleviated, and they've reunited.
"Having this home has helped bring us closer together," she says.
Her kids are happier too, and that, as every parent knows, is beyond uplifting.
"When your kids feel secure, all is well." she observes.
So, she's asked, how would you sum up this program?
"It doesn't just give a family a home," she replies. "It gives them hope."
Back at the McQueens' new home, that hope, like the ornamental plants lining the front yard, is just starting to take root.
If you are currently a renter who can afford to pay a total of $500 to $600 a month for an energy-efficient three or four-bedroom home, you can contact Habitat for Humanity Detroit to see if you qualify by phoning 313-521-6691 (ext. 119) or going to the group's website at habitatdetroit.org.
News Hits is written by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com.
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