The Live Flint series is a part of TheHUB ‘s on-going reports on the resurgence of Flint’s economy and related housing trends. Today, we meet Smith Village homeowner Kevin Grayden who is a part of a growing number of residents who see promise in Flint’s neighborhoods.
For Kevin Grayden’s family, it was like Christmas in springtime. But the biggest present would never have fit under a tree.
The drive from school with Grayden’s daughter Ni’Shariah, 8, and son Josiah, 3, included blindfolds with the promise of a mysterious destination. At first, the siblings were confused when their father let them into the three-bedroom address in the Smith Village Homes subdivision last month.
“Where are we?” they asked.
But as Grayden showed Ni’Shariah to the bedroom containing a fully assembled Barbie dollhouse, she realized she was at her new residence. With help from initiatives like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a collaborative program of the City of Flint and Metro Community Development, growing numbers of buyers like Grayden are welcoming their families into new homes.
“Being in Flint, you see all the impoverished areas and blight, but I’m also blessed enough to see the redevelopment that’s in progress and that’s coming,” Grayden, 26, says.
Along with enjoying his children’s reaction to the new house – and toys that filled it – located near Saginaw Street and Martin Luther King, Grayden is happy about its proximity to downtown. A Flint firefighter, he says Station No. 3, where he might eventually be transferred, is a short walk from the house.
“It’s the first home that I’ve bought in my name,” Grayden says.
Grayden’s is the second property sale closed in Smith Village this year. Metro Community Development’s implementation of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program has helped the city fill all but two of 39 units that were renovated and spared from adding to a landscape of blight. After the city’s housing department conflicted with the original developers of the homes various setbacks, including the foreclosure crisis during the first decade of 2000, combined to leave the structures vacant for years.
“The homes had been vandalized, so the city had to repair them and it took a while,” says Matt Ronan, lending officer for Metro Community Development.
By assisting prospective homebuyers like Grayden, Metro helped add some balance to the community’s need to eliminate nuisances and add density.
“Kevin works in the city, he believes in the city and wants to stay in the city,” Ronan says.
Grayden, a National Guard veteran who’d begun house-shopping with plans to buy using a VA loan, went through Metro instead. He received down-payment assistance, qualifying to buy in Smith Village where applicants earn between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income. In exchange for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program’s support and benefits, Grayden agreed to make the house his main residence for, at least, five years.
“It was pretty much like they walked with me hand-in-hand,” says Grayden.
Grayden said the support he received from Metro was beneficial, particularly noting its home-buyer’s course helped to demystified and simplified the buying process
He also received financing assistance to replace an aging furnace, as well as assistance in gaining access to the city’s water heater replacement program.
Grayden is especially glad to have made the purchase for Ni’Shariah and Josiah.
“They actually were the main factors,” adds Grayden. “I kind of wanted them to have their own space.”
He says he was impressed with Ronan’s attention and active assistance throughout the buying process, including calls and visits after business hours.
“I’m definitely grateful for Metro, because all the free services helped me quite a bit,” adds Grayden, “not just in buying the house, but as a man.”
Ronan describes Grayden as “just a good guy” and “the type of resident that you want.”
Metro has plans to bring its own affordable developments to Flint, to further increase home ownership in neighborhoods, Ronan says.
Grayden was a pleasure to work with because of his responsiveness to requests for documentation and other records, but sometimes even the most responsive potential buyer can struggle due to the demands of procedure, Ronan adds.
“You gotta have persistence,” he says. “You can’t be the type of person that’s going to give up.
“It just pays to stick with it.”