Detroit native Johnny Knott arrived in Flint around 1986. By 2009, he had purchased his first home, which was built in 1906. It needed new windows (and some other minor repairs), but when his income drastically took a downturn due to an illness his wife suffered, he had to prioritize.
Then, last year, a church member told him about the Neighborhood Impact Program (NIP) through Metro Community Development, which can assist homeowners with free repairs including new windows, furnaces, roofs, siding, and other deferred maintenance types of repairs with NIP grants of up to $7,500 per household. The timing was perfect.
“About two months ago they came to my neighborhood (and) I jumped right on it, got everything I needed, and in less than 30 days, they had it (the paperwork) all done,” Knott says. “They offered me $7,500 –– I’m getting some windows put in my place now. I’ve been waiting for that for a long time. My house was built in 1906, so it’s about time for some windows. It’s all brick so it’s a pretty solid house, it’s just old.”
Knott sees the importance of the program not just for the immediate results, but also, its potential impact on his property value.
“My neighborhood had drastically failed because of the water crisis, and homes were going into foreclosure,” Knott says. “These programs really help the community; a matter of fact, I talk about it at church all the time.”
That kind of word-of-mouth is what Metro Community Development CEO Brian Glowiak hopes will continue to drive programs such as NIP and the Accessibility Modifications Program (AMP), which supports such improvements as ramps, handrails, internal chair and wheelchair lifts, widened doorways and various bathroom modifications such as walk/roll-in showers and more. Whereas the NIP program provides up to $7,500, each AMP grant may be up to $12,000 per household.
Funding for these programs is provided by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis on a first-come, first-served basis. This year, Metro Community Development was eligible to submit applications totaling $300,000 for NIP grants and $300,000 for AMP awards on behalf of local homeowners. According to Glowiak, 43 households were approved, 35 of which were in the city of Flint.
Neighborhood resurgence is not an exact science, but many experts point to evidence that the support of existing residents is extremely valuable in neighborhood economic development efforts, particularly when it is combined with an influx of external interest.
“I don’t have empirical evidence available to substantiate the proposition, however, I believe it is a fair conclusion that improving homes can improve a neighborhood’s attractiveness,” Glowiak says. “It can also change the desirability of a neighborhood and people’s attitudes, resulting in a rise in property values and community pride.”
At this stage, $300,000 in NIP awards have been fully committed and the ongoing goal is to fully leverage the $300,000 available for the AMP initiative. Metro is working to get the word out to Flint seniors needing assistance to modify their homes for greater accessibility. To qualify for the AMP grant, the applicant must be 62 years of age or an individual with a permanent disability experiencing difficulties accessing their home. Qualified applicants also include any household member of any age who has a permanent disability and is currently receiving permanent disability benefits.
“The amount is $12,000 per household,” Glowiak says, and it has one other added benefit: Up to 50 percent of the funds requested for AMP improvements can be used for deferred maintenance items such as roofing, siding, or windows, he notes.
“It’s really serving the social and economic development of this community,” Glowiak says. “If we’re able to help homeowners improve their houses and their quality of life as they upgrade their homes, we’re advancing our vision and mission.”
Flint native and actor Terrance Ottis Williams, returned home in 2003 from Hollywood after doing film work for Ridley and Tony Scott (directors of Alien and Top Gun respectively) to take care of his mother’s estate. He bought his own home in 2008, which was built back in 1941. The problem occurred when his insurance company told him that they were cancelling his homeowner’s insurance due to his shingles, which were curling.
“So they cancelled my homewoner’s insurance,” he recalls. “When this program came up to get my roof repaired, I took advantage of that.”
Williams takes occasional acting work in independent films and helps his church, but these projects barely help him to make ends meet. The NIP program was really, for him, a lifesaver. The roofing work is scheduled to be complete by the end of July.
“The roof will improve everything really,” Williams says. “I’m completely grateful for the assistance they’ve provided … they were very polite and gracious and helpful –– they treated me like a human being. Now, I can get some homeowner’s insurance.”
For more information on these programs, visit Metro Community Development’s website.