Through the combined efforts of a city, school district and nonprofit agency, a suburban street on Clinton Township’s east side is getting a new lease on life.
Adjacent to Mount Clemens, Howard Street is today home to nearly two dozen single-family residences built as a result of community partnerships with Macomb County Habitat for Humanity.
“This piece of property that was once a dumping ground is now a subdivision of houses with viable tax paying families in them,” said Karan Bates-Gasior, program director for Habitat.
Bates-Gasior, who has worked on the Howard Street project since Clinton Township deeded the property to Habitat in 2006, said that while the homes have transformed the area visually, the social and economic impact has been far more significant.
“The home security piece is so huge, especially to the children," she said. "Statistics on that are outstanding … how many more of them graduate high school, college, how there are fewer teen pregnancies. The kids are more successful because they are in a stable house that is their own.”
To be eligible for one of the Howard Street homes, families must be partners of Macomb Habitat, meaning they have had ties to Macomb County for at least six months and every adult in the family has contributed 250 hours of "sweat equity" to the organization.
“When people are moving into the home there is not a dry in the house,” said Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon. “People who would never have had an opportunity for home ownership, who were always extremely hard-working but needed a break in life, now have a place to call home. To my knowledge, Habitat has never had a default and that is a much better record than any bank.”
The homes, once completed, are then sold to these low-income families with a zero-interest loan.
“Here’s a piece of property not doing anybody any good,” Bates-Gasior said, “but by allowing us to have it, a tax base develops. The family probably shops in the neighborhood, so it’s good for local businesses. They send their kids to school, so it’s good for our schools. The actual trickle-down effects are astronomical.”
These trickle-down effects also include on-the-job training for dozens of local high school students every year.
By October 2013, five of the homes on Howard Street will be products of Chippewa Valley Schools’ Building Trades Program, a career and technical education program that includes students from both Chippewa Valley and Dakota high schools.
Since 2007, building trades teacher Joe Churches has lead his students in the construction of . And while the State of Michigan Bureau of Construction Codes inspects the finished product, the students are responsible for everything from roofing and siding, to plumbing and electrical elements.
Once complete, the homes are moved from the Dakota campus to their chosen lots on Howard Street, where community volunteers and contractors connect the water and sewer system and add the finishing touches needed to make each home visually unique.
This year, Clinton Township awarded $102,500 of its HOME funds – annual allocations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – to Chippewa Valley to cover a portion of the $135,000 construction cost. The remaining costs are covered by sweat equity/volunteer work and gift-in-kind funding, which includes school funds set aside for the program.
“This has been an ongoing wonderful project … and I’m proud Clinton Township saw the beauty and advantage of it and jumped on board,” Cannon said.
Community members can help programs like this continue by making financial donations or volunteering to help build or renovate a Habitat home themselves.