Friday, July 27, 2018
Forty-eight properties in the Historic Coleman Park neighborhood of West Palm Beach have been affected so far with additional properties in the planning stage.
West Palm Beach, FL – (July 9, 2018) – When you look at a map showing the work that Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County has completed in Coleman Park and other neighborhoods of West Palm Beach you can’t help but be impressed. When you look at the before and after photos of some of these properties and neighborhoods you will understand the true value of community-wide investment.
Habitat International’s neighborhood revitalization efforts launched in 2010 as a response to the worst economic and housing crisis in decades. Growing numbers of foreclosed and abandoned properties resulted in blighted and demoralized neighborhoods.
Habitat for Humanity is not the architect of neighborhood revitalization in any given neighborhood. Instead, the work is tailored to the aspirations and dreams of residents who take on leadership roles in their neighborhood’s renewal. By ceding the leadership role to residents, while supporting, serving and seeking ways to build capacity, Habitat ensures the work will be sustainable over time without making the neighborhood dependent on just one nonprofit organization.
Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County’s Board of Directors approved its Neighborhood Revitalization initiative in November of 2014 and Nadine Dennis was hired as Director of Neighborhood Revitalization in February of 2015. The three adjoining neighborhoods identified for this program were Coleman Park, the Historic Northwest District, and Pleasant City. HFHPBC has been working simultaneously in all three neighborhoods, but started its intensive work in Coleman Park where Habitat had already been donated a handful of vacant lots. The progress in this 2,000-resident neighborhood has been remarkable. In 2014 an average Habitat for Humanity home built in Coleman Park appraised for $75,000. An equivalent home recently completed in Coleman Park appraised at $165,000.
Of the 48 properties touched in Coleman Park to date, 19 are newly built Habitat for Humanity homes and three are rehabilitated homes that had been sitting empty waiting for homeowners. HFHPBC also undertook 23 home repairs and three community projects to increase the curb appeal and safety of two churches and a local urban garden. There are seven more new construction projects in the planning stage which will bring the number of properties affected in Coleman Park to a total of 55.
Habitat’s “A Brush with Kindness” home repair program is a loan program which makes $1,000 to $5,000 loans available to low-income homeowners for exterior home painting and landscaping. The homeowners pay back 10% to 60% of the loan based on their financial qualification and put in five to 12 hours of sweat equity on the project. The Critical Home Repair program provides similar $5,000 to $10,000 loans to homeowners for critical repairs like new roofs, air conditioning systems, termite mitigation and entire new kitchens or baths.
Armando Fana of the City of West Palm Beach Department of Housing and Community Development has been a critical partner in HFHPBC’s work in Coleman Park. He worked with the City to have properties turned over to HFH on which they could build homes. Habitat also worked in concert with many residents and people like Cathy Gardner, President, James Irving, Vice President and Nellie Cooper, Financial Secretary/Treasurer of the Coleman Park Neighborhood Association. All of these leaders have been instrumental in the revitalization efforts. Habitat considers itself to be a collaborator with the Coleman Park Neighborhood Association, participating in area programs and decision-making.
“We are gratified to see the great progress that has been made in Coleman Park,” says Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County CEO, Bernie Godek. “The support and collaboration we have received from the City of West Palm Beach Department of Housing and Community Development, along with the Coleman Park Neighborhood Association and faith-based groups has resulted in sustainable revitalization and a transformed community.”
Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County has observed spontaneous improvements of non-HFH properties in Coleman Park as Habitat’s work has progressed. On 17th Street HFHPBC has built four homes and repaired three. When the work began there was a dilapidated, uninhabited two-story home on the street. A year later the private owner had completely renovated it. Other neighbors on the street have cleaned up, painted and improved their lots. The barber shop on the corner of 17th and Tamarind always looks well-kept and the owner purchased the lot next to it and keeps that cleaned up as well. When Habitat started building on 18th Street there was just one owner-occupied home on the street. HFHPBC owned one lot and was given three additional lots on which to build and now there are five owner-occupied homes on the street. This brought the homeownership percentage up from 4% to 20%. State and Grant streets have improved in appearance dramatically since HFHPBC built six new homes and repaired five on those blocks. Two old shacks that were on State street have been taken down. As these neighbors see the City of West Palm Beach and Habitat for Humanity investing in Coleman Park, they are more willing to make that investment as well.