Northside pastors partner with Habitat for Humanity to increase number of Black homeowners in tornado-damaged Minneapolis neighborhood

Homeownership among Blacks on the Northside has been waning in recent years, first because of the mortgage foreclosure crisis, and secondly by the May 2011 tornado. As a result, a group of North Minneapolis pastors met a few months ago and joined collaboratively to help address this issue.

This issue “is urgency to our congregations. Right now there is a small percentage of homeownership by African Americans,” explains

Bishop Richard Howell, Jr., pastor of Shiloh Temple International Ministries, a founding member of the Northside Pastors’ Collaborative, a coalition of local churches. New Salem Baptist, Kwanzaa Community Church, Greater Friendship

Missionary Baptist, New Creation Church, New Bethel Baptist, Redeemer Lutheran, Berean Baptist, Family Baptist and Proverbs Christian Fellowship are the other members.

The pastors of these churches have become an advisory group for Habitat for Humanity, a faith-based, nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing. At least 20 percent of 2,000-plus houses in the Twin Cities the national organization has built or repaired are located in North Minneapolis.

“All of us who are African American pastors are concerned that our people will be served adequately with the right information and to motivate them to pursue homeownership,” states Howell.

“They are the real leaders of the community and true representatives of the community,” proclaimed Habitat for Humanity spokeswoman Jeanne Harris of the Northside pastors. “They have their fingers on the pulse of that community in ways in which we can never know.”

She adds that her organization “wants to be a service but doesn’t want to make assumptions on what the people need or what they’re open to. Oftentimes, we have all sort of groups and organizations that come and set up shop in North Minneapolis in order to do things for the community and to help the community; and at least sometimes, all these groups just come in on their own initiative, not having been asked or invited into the community.

“Habitat for Humanity is very sensitive to that,” continues Harris. “We felt we needed a real working relationship and partnership with the pastors on the North Side. These ministers also have a reputation of being engaged [with other organizations].

“The Northside Pastors’ Collaborative exists solely as an advisory body to Habitat for Humanity,” notes Harris. “This collaborative is trying to find ways for [more] African Americans to be homeowners.”

As a result, Shiloh Temple will host the Second Annual Housing Empowerment Expo January 26, 1-5 pm. “We will have staff from our three major programs” and set up appointments for Habitat personnel to come to residences for inspections and property assessments, Harris points out.

Habitat for Humanity is more than just a group of people providing “sweat equity” to help people build their own homes, says Harris. “Our mission is to eliminate poverty housing wherever it may be found. We build for low- and moderate-income families. We want to serve as many people as possible. Single mothers, single fathers, married couples with children — we want them to have a home of their own.

Harris says that Habitat for Humanity has had a presence on the Northside for nearly 20 years. She joined the organization last year. Among its homeownership program with zero-interest mortgages available to qualifying applicants, Habitat also offers “A Brush with Kindness Program,” which provides painting, landscaping and repairs for low-income homeowners, with priority given to the elderly, veterans, single parents and residents with disabilities. Their Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Program offices are located in the Urban League on Plymouth Avenue.

“We are committed to making sure that you are able to stay in your home once you get in your home,” says Harris. “We’ve seen on the North Side many homes that have been demolished because they fell into disrepair. Many times the homeowner could not afford the repairs and they were forced out of their homes because of that.”

Harris added that the organization’s current focus is “an eight-block area” on North Minneapolis. “This area fell on the same path as the tornado, which sustained extensive damage. We’ve been there for at least a year trying to bring it back to life.”

“I think the information [available] on January 26 hopefully will continue the efforts in really motivating African Americans to be homeowners through Habitat for Humanity,” surmises Howell. “The need is greater now. This could’ve come at a better time. I think our president sees this as a great need as well. This should be an African American agenda — housing empowerment.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman [at] spokesman-recorder [dot] com.

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  • I appreciate the efforts to empower the opportunity of home ownership, but wonder if the business model of “an eight-block area” of concentrated low income housing best serves the purpose of enabling those in need. What many don't know is that the homes that Habitat for Humanity is developing in this “eight-block area” are sold with covenants that require those families who purchase them to sell the homes back to Habitat when they leave. Habitat will then relocate additional low income families into this area in an effort to provide opportunities for other low income families. While initially this may seem to be an excellent opportunity for families unable to secure mortgages to transcend into home ownership and build equity to better the lives of their families; the low income qualifications that will limit potentially buyers and the concentrations of poverty in this district will diminish the appraised value of these homes (and the adjacent homes in the neighborhoods surrounding this complex) when they go to sell it. As these homes age and lose value, then the owners experience will amount to little more than renting a subsidized home with the additional expenses of maintaining that property. While concentrating poverty may seem like an efficient social engineering tool, the long term benefits to both the buyers and the community will be marginal at best. Does our community ever vision the day when we can transcend from perpetuating poverty to providing a quality of life for those who live here? Wouldn't a better use of funding be to build quality homes dispersed throughout mixed income areas in our community so that we don't create targeted low income projects? Wouldn't it be better to let these home appreciate in the open market so that the care and investment that Habitat instills in owners can be appreciated by them? - by Joel Baird on Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:28pm

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Charles Hallman's picture
Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman writes regularly for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and blogs at Another View.