MIAMI – Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami will build 34 homes in Overtown, a $1.4 million investment in the historically African-American neighborhood by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The new cluster of houses in downtown Miami will boost the neighborhood's limited stock of quality homes. Only 4 percent of houses in Overtown are considered to be in good condition, according to the City of Miami Planning Department. Only 10 percent of Overtown residents own their homes, and a majority of residents currently live in rental units that are in fair to poor condition.
The grant, the largest ever to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami, also helps to create a homeowners association that will monitor the aesthetics of the homes and landscaping and let residents become more involved in the surrounding community.
“This big investment is building housing to fill a critical need at a critical time in the community,” said Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of Knight Foundation. “We are banking on Habitat's reputation and the residents' desire to rebuild Overtown.”
Habitat will build several different models, including one- and two-story homes in the north section of Overtown located between Northwest 14th and 20th streets. The new homeowners will take out zero-percent interest loans to Habitat to repay the hard construction costs of their home, between $55,000 to $70,000. Habitat homeowners are low-income residents who have a housing need and are able to afford modest mortgage payments of approximately $400. Habitat has committed to sell at least 50 percent of the new homes to current Overtown residents.
“Habitat's home-building efforts are stabilizing the Overtown community and halting the spiraling decline of the neighborhood,” said Anne Manning, executive director of Habitat. “Low-income residents are given the opportunity to be homeowners; this is critical in Overtown, which has an abysmal 10 percent homeownership rate.”
The Habitat for Humanity grant extends Knight Foundation's past investment in the organization and in the community. In 2001, Habitat got $600,000 from Knight to build 10 homes in Overtown. In 1995, a $125,000 Knight grant helped fund 12 homes in nearby Highland Park.
This new Habitat grant is part of Knight Foundation's tightly focused, five-year investment in improving the quality of life for residents in Overtown, East Little Havana and portions of Broward County. Knight's funding efforts focus on increasing citizen participation in the community, and improving community development by encouraging homeownership, providing job-training opportunities and promoting income-stabilizing programs.
The Knight grant gives low-income residents the ability to establish homeownership in a neighborhood where property values are expected to increase in the coming years. The new home construction also addresses the potential gentrification of Overtown, which is being spurred by nearby development of the multimillion-dollar Performing Arts Center, new condominium construction along the Miami River and other potential residential and commercial development.
The Habitat project joins Knight Foundation's previous $5.4 million investment in the Overtown Transformation Partnership, which combines the efforts of The Collins Center for Public Policy, Greater Miami Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and The Trust for Public Land to provide affordable housing, improve the quality of life through beautification projects and develop and implement a new vision for the community that preserves its African-American roots. The partnership also includes the construction of new housing through the work of the St. John and BAME community development corporations and the expansion of the Lyric Theater and Folklife Village by The Black Archives.
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