ALLIANCE – The Carnation City’s Habitat for Humanity affiliate will help three families secure homes in 2022, the most for a single year in the last decade.
The nonprofit developed an “aggressive” approach to obtaining grant funding that will allow the agency to have nine completed homes in the focus neighborhood of its eastern Alliance revitalization program by the end of the year, Executive Director of Alliance Area Habitat for Humanity Niki McIlvain said.
Alliance Area Habitat received $130,000 in grant funds through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program, $54,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, additional money from the Robertson Family Charitable Fund and a sponsorship with the Alliance Rotary Club to make the projects happen.
The first project of 2022—a rehab located by Franklin Elementary School—is already underway. The other two homes will be “full construction,” McIlvain said, and will begin in September and July respectively.
Meanwhile, the agency also intends to launch a home repair program that will help Alliance families maintain the conditions of their homes and prevent houses from becoming community eyesores.
“We’re planning a soft opening for 2023,” McIlvain said.
Alliance Area Habitat’s neighborhood revitalization efforts play a crucial role in seeing vacant parcels return to productive use, City Director of Planning and Economic Development Joe Mazzola said.
“They’re taking a strategic approach. It’s not like ‘Oh, let’s do a home here and a home there.’ They are actually rebuilding neighborhoods,” he said.
Mazzola said prospective buyers look at neighborhoods and their surrounding areas when they are in the market for a home. Blighted properties and vacant parcels can dissuade buyers. By focusing on the entire neighborhood, Alliance Area Habitat helps make the area more appealing, he said, and increases the value of other homes nearby.
He also said that neighborhood-centric revitalization efforts create hope for those already living in the area.
Housing rehabilitation is one of the most difficult aspects of urban development, especially in older cities, Mazzola said. In recent years, Alliance has made efforts to eliminate a backlog of properties slated for demolition. The city removed roughly 200 blighted homes through the Neighborhood Initiative Program. Mazzola said the city wants to keep up with demolitions so that it doesn’t fall behind again.
When houses rot and become uninhabitable, they detract from their neighborhoods. McIlvain said the goal of Alliance Area Habitat’s future home repair program is to assist homeowners in making the necessary fixes to keep their houses in good condition. The agency recognizes this need in the community, she said, wants to be able to provide support.
McIlvain said Alliance Area Habitat is already looking ahead to 2023. The organization runs a biannual Apostle Build, where local churches harness their efforts to build a home. This will be Alliance Area Habitat’s first build next year. McIlvain said the agency is already looking for potential families.
ReStore expansion moves forward
When Alliance Area Habitat opened the doors to its ReStore on South Arch Avenue last summer, half of the building was still awaiting construction. Increased costs of labor and materials stemming from the coronavirus pandemic prevented Alliance Area Habitat from completing the southside of the building.
The ReStore sells new and gently used home improvement items, such as furniture, appliances and building materials, at discounted prices. It aims to help families afford quality pieces of furniture and other necessary home supplies while also creating another source of revenue for Alliance Area Habitat.
McIlvain said the store has done well in its first nine months of operation. The ReStore recently started hosting an event called “Thrifting Thursday,” which takes place on the third Thursday of every month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and offers a variety of discounts and promotions.
The ReStore saw revenue on par with its grand opening during the first Thrifting Thursday event in February, McIlvain said.
She also said the ReStore is now generating enough revenue that Alliance Area Habitat will be able to move ahead with the second phase of the building. This will add 3,000 square feet of floor space to the ReStore, she said, creating room for more retail.
McIlvain said the ReStore will soon be hiring a part-time assistant manager.
Volunteer opportunities available
Alliance Area Habitat offers volunteer opportunities at build sites and at the ReStore. To view available opportunities, visit https://allianceareahabitat.galaxydigital.com/.
Reach Paige at 330-580-8577 or [email protected], or on Twitter at @paigembenn.