Metro Community Development is taking steps to battle blight on Flint’s north side in a big way thanks to major support from the Consumers Energy Foundation.
This week, Consumers Energy Foundation awarded Metro Community Development with a $250,000 grant to bolster Metro’s new and innovative Back @ Home program.
Through this grant and other funds, an estimated 37 North Flint homes will be renovated and sold to income-eligible buyers over the next 10 years, according to Metro Community Development’s CEO Brian Glowiak.
“We are very thankful for Consumers Energy’s investment in Metro and the City of Flint,” Glowiak says. “It’s a win-win-win. We see it as a way to revitalize Flint. It’s a way to really induce new investment in the community, to add pride to the neighborhood and to expand home ownership.”
Metro partnered with Genesee County Land Bank and has already bought an abandoned house in the Metawanenee Hills neighborhood. The non-profit group will concentrate their efforts on homes in this area as they already own 24 (more modern) rental units there.
“It’s truly a beautiful neighborhood and there’s lots of opportunity for revitalization with the abandoned homes there,” Glowiak says.
It’s not about taking the funds, buying five or seven house and then selling them, Glowiak says. The intent is to keep repeating the process so that every time Metro buys, transforms and sells a house, they can take those proceeds and buy another house. That creates a process that positively and continuously re-leverages the grant, he says.
Through this proven technique and based on a conservative estimate, Metro anticipates that over the course of 10 years the $250,000 could actually underwrite 37 homes.
Emily Doerr, Vice President of Housing Development for Metro, will supervise the implementation of Back @ Home. Doerr stresses its unique elements.
“We’re working with new home-buyers, not existing ones, to help bring more homeowners to the Metawanenee Hills neighborhood. And we’ll use our internal counseling division to provide financial literacy and credit counseling to prepare the home-buyers for homeownership,” Doerr says.
She also says Metro will use their internal lending division to underwrite, originate and service the loans. That way the loans don’t need to be appraisal-based and they can “reset the market” by selling a house for $35,000 (instead of $15,000 that an appraiser would tell a traditional lender) and slowly push the values up.
“We will finance the first few homes ourselves,” explains Glowiak, who notes the effort will help stabilize home appraisals and create new comparable home sales and values.
“After you have a couple of comps, you can use it to justify the next home sale and then the next home sale. It allows you to reset the market and that is what we intend to do,” Glowiak says.
Metro forecasts a ripple effect: They will help home-buyers qualify for a mortgage and then the benefits will cascade out to the community as other homeowners are building more equity with their homes because their homes are now appreciating.
Back @ Home’s reach will also extend to some of Flint’s younger community members. They will enlist Metro Flint’s YouthBuild to assist with the house renovations. They will hire local youth associated with the workforce development program to offer them not only some income, but also an opportunity for some valuable training in construction.
The multi-layered benefits of Metro’s program is one of the factors that caught the attention of the Consumers Energy Foundation.
“This grant goes well beyond renovating homes, it will be changing lives and the community. Metro’s application is a perfect fit for the Consumers Energy Foundation’s focus to help Michigan’s communities grow through neighborhood revitalization,” says Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation.
Bloodworth adds, “We’re very proud that this grant helps Metro Community Development launch the first of many homes that will be made available to first-time home buyers. We’re also pleased to know that young people from Metro Flint YouthBuild will be engaged in the rehabilitation work.”
She reports that Consumers Energy Foundation received 145 letters of intent for the Prosperity Awards and that Metro was one of 20 organizations who were advanced to submit full applications. They are one of three organizations who were selected to receive funding. Bloodworth says that Metro’s new housing renovation program dovetails nicely with what is important to the Consumers Energy Foundation.
“The Consumers Energy Foundation enables communities to thrive and grow by investing in what’s most important to Michigan – its people, our planet and Michigan’s prosperity,” Bloodworth says. “The grant award for Metro Community Development represents that commitment in action, working with great organizations to help Michigan – and Flint – continue to be a great place to live, work and innovate.”