Housing Matters – December 2016

Dec 22, 15 Housing Matters – December 2016

“Blessed” would likely not be the word most people would use to describe their lives after having witnessed the murder of a parent at a young age, only to face later the heartbreak of having a child of their own undergo three open heart surgeries at the tender age 4.  But most people do not have the resilience and kind spirit of LaKesa Smith.  At 39, this doting single mother of 4 sons feels blessed to serve as the matriarch of a close-knit family— a family that is working to help rebuild a community in Toledo’s central city. Ms. Smith and her two eldest sons, Daryl and Darontae, are now laying down roots in Toledo’s TOTCO neighborhood thanks to the efforts of NeighborWorks® Toledo Region and the Lucas County Land Bank.

Making the Housing Tax Credit work for Toledo

The homes purchased by Ms. Smith and her sons are part of a development known as TOTCO Homes. TOTCO Homes was originally developed in 1996 through the Housing Tax Credit (HTC) program of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA).  The HTC program is designed to increase the supply of quality, affordable rental housing by helping developers offset the costs of rental housing developments for individuals with low- to moderate-income for 15 years, after which the housing units can be sold to create affordable homeownership opportunities.   This program has been the largest driver of the production of new affordable housing in the state and nation over the past several years.

NeighborWorks® became the manager of TOTCO Homes in 2013, and its involvement in the neighborhood didn’t stop there.  In 2014, NeighborWorks®  completed the development of Legacy Homes, a 40-unit single family, affordable housing development.  Like TOTCO Homes, the Legacy Homes project was also financed using housing tax credits. This scattered-site project provides affordable rental housing now, and will allow residents additional affordable homeownership opportunities in the future. Forty thousand dollars has been set aside for down payment assistance, once the homes become eligible for purchase at the conclusion of the tax credit compliance period in 2030.

 

Moving Beyond Physical Development

Toledo Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) provides operating grants and technical support to community organizations, including NeighborWorks®  Toledo Region, that work to strengthen Toledo’s neighborhoods through community-building activities. “Engaged residents are the backbone of strong neighborhoods, and NeighborWorks® staff has demonstrated its success in engaging residents through the sale of almost a dozen homes in the TOTCO neighborhood in the recent months.” according to Kim Cutcher, Executive Director of Toledo LISC.

LaKesa Smith also credits the efforts of NeighborWorks® and the Lucas County Land Bank for making her homeownership dreams come true.  Ms. Smith explained how Alma Dortch-Gilbert, Homeownership Center Manager and Loan Officer at NeighborWorks®  gave giving her the support and encouragement she needed to make her homeownership goals a reality, “The thought of homeownership was scary at first.  I wasn’t sure I was making the right choice.  I kept thinking, can I handle it financially if I bought this house and something broke down right away?”

Ms. Smith said her fears were allayed through homeownership counseling services provided by NeighborWorks®,  and the improvements that were made possible by a $10,000 grant from the Lucas County Land Bank.  The Land Bank partnered with NeighborWorks® to ensure that the homes sold as part of the TOTCO Homes development received the needed upgrades and attention to ensure that new owners are not immediately faced with large repair bills resulting from years of deferred maintenance.

Impacting Families

LaKesa Smith is not embarking on the journey to homeownership alone. She successfully encouraged her eldest sons to join her. With the help of NeighborhWorks, her son Daryl Winfree, age 23 has purchased his first home just around the corner from her, and her son Darontae Smith, age 20 has purchased the home right across the street from her.  Ms. Smith’s pride in her two eldest sons is palpable when she talks about how they will own their homes free and clear by the time they are 30 years old thanks to the 7-year seller financing provided by NeighborWorks Toledo Region.

There are many economic and social benefits of living close to family, including babysitting, and the support extended family can provide when faced with tough times.  But none of these benefits is greater than the smile and excitement on 7-year-old Ahmad Smith’s face when he talks about he gets to be the first one to enjoy a sleepover at his older brother’s house across the street.

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