Breathing Life into a Michigan Neighborhood

Friday, December 19, 2003

What began in 1995 as a glimmer of hope for a distressed Detroit suburb has now become a success story for how smart revitalization can transform even the worst of neighborhoods.

For years, malaise had been a growing problem in the Carver neighborhood in the city of Westland, located some 10 miles due west of the Motor City. Property values were declining and a high percentage of the houses were rentals. Drugs and the crime that follows were common. Although adequately protected by police and fire services, most families felt disconnected from the city.

Westland city officials heard the pleas of residents and responded. Part of their response was their intention to seek funding for the community through HUD's CDBG and HOME programs. A partnership began with Peoples Community Hope for Homes, a local faith-based group. Local lenders agreed to provide mortgage assistance for both new and existing homeowners. A needs assessment was conducted and revitalization plan developed, which resulted in more applications for federal funds through the state's Neighborhood Preservation Program.

[Photo 1: The front of Edna Lewis' new home] [Photo 2: Officials standing in front of a 2-car garage]
The finished product built for $109,000 by Peoples Community Hope for Homes, a faith-based organization. The house is approximately 1550 sq. ft. with a 2-car garage, full basement and master bedroom suite. The majority of the homes are built for the low- to moderate-income individuals and families. A ribbon cutting was held in November to celebrate the first unit sold to Edna Lewis, a first-time homebuyer. Pictured left to right are Mayor Sandra Cicirelli; Rev. John Hearns, Peoples Community Baptist Church; Jeanette Harris, HUD; Edna Lewis, homeowner; and James Gilbert, City of Westland.

And with their perseverance came results. At the new Westshire Place Development Project officials can boast of:

  • The purchase and rehabilitation of two existing homes, one of which was a HUD home and the other was in the process of being sold.

  • One home has been donated to the program, moved to the Carver neighborhood, a foundation and basement built, and the home sold.

  • Four new homes have been built and a fifth is underway. Three of the homes have been sold.

  • Some 38 additional lots have been purchased for future construction.

  • And the PCHFH, through its church affiliation, has developed and is operating a charter school in the Carver neighborhood.

In addition, Westland city officials have added additional code enforcement officers to ensure the upkeep of structures, social and public service programs, transportation services and infrastructure improvements to roads, waterline and sewers.

City officials also created a Homebuyer Program to purchase both new and existing homes. Homebuyers must obtain a certification of completion for housing counseling prior to receiving a subsidy.

The revitalization efforts have also resulted in a new fire station, offering better fire safety and advanced life support to area residents, a part-time community policing office, and a neighborhood playground, providing increased recreational opportunities for families.


Content Archived: September 09, 2009