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#OTGYpsi: Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley continues building in Ypsilanti Township

Resources:

Concentrate Ann Arbor

Rylee Barnsdale's Feature Article: Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on first Ypsi Township construction since 2008

Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley

Habitat hosts Groundbreaking Ceremony for 3 Future Affordable Homes

Good News Group

Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley Home Ownership Program

Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley Women Build

Transcription:

Rylee Barnsdale: You're listening to 89 one WEMU. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is On the Ground Ypsi. Since 1989, Habitat for Humanity Huron Valley has been working to create more affordable homeownership opportunities for families of low income throughout Ypsi and the whole of Washtenaw County, whether it be through building new homes from the ground up or renovating existing properties as part of their ongoing investment in Ypsi Township. HHHV recently broke ground on three new homes on Firwood Street in April, marking their first new construction in the area since 2008. The affordable housing projects are supported by the 2024 Habitat for Humanity Women Build participants 15 area congregations, known as the Good News Group, as well as the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. CEO of HHHV Sarah Stanton is here with me today to talk about this project and Habitat's commitment to aiding Ypsi Township through providing affordable housing and building trust in the community. Hi, Sarah! Thanks so much!

Sarah Stanton: Hi! Thanks, Riley, for having us!

Rylee Barnsdale: So, can you give me just a little bit of background on this project? Why did you break ground in this area of Ypsi? And who are you hoping to market these homes to once they're finished?

Sarah Stanton: You know, we've been working in Washtenaw County in general since 1989, as you mentioned. And really since 2008, 2009, when the housing market crashed and there was a financial market crash, we focused our work in some concentrated areas within Ypsi Township. And the reason we focus there were there is a high need. And there were communities that were at kind of a tipping point where they had been long, strong homeownership communities, but then had been slowly losing that homeownership hold and over into rental and often remote rentals. So, at that time, we switched over from new construction into renovation and started trying to renovate as many of the existing properties as we could. And so, we've concentrated in these three neighborhoods: Gault Village, Sugarbrook, and West Willow neighborhoods. And then, we we back that up with community development work. So, we're working within the community to identify leadership among the residents and then help them identify things that they want to see improved or grown. And we work with them to help them organize to do those kinds of things. We also have a program that's concentrated much there, too, called our Home Improvement Project. And those are working with existing low income homeowners to help them sustain their homes. And it's often people that are growing older and trying to age in place, but they have these large improvements that are needed. So, Habitat comes in and helps people do that. But as the market has changed more recently, we've moved back to new homeownership--new building, rather. And we've had these lots on Firwood and Elder, and in that area we've done, I think, 13 houses in that little community--Firwood and Elder. And so, we're now starting again breaking ground, and doing three houses at Firwood. And then we'll do two more over on Elder. And it's a great community. And it'll be a great place for new homebuyers to enter into their homeownership experience.

Rylee Barnsdale: Is that transition--is it just because there are no more properties to buy? Is there more of a combination of renovation work and new construction? What is that looking like on your end?

Sarah Stanton: Yeah, it's a little bit of both. We have some renovations that we'll continue to do in this next fiscal year. We'll be renovating six properties, but the new construction is inevitable for us because it is very hard to purchase anything affordable to renovate and then sell to someone in an affordable way. And our commitment is to sell our homes to buyers at the appraised value, so that their mortgage payment and their insurance and their household payment doesn't exceed 30% of their income. Trying to make all those numbers work is really, really hard right now in Washtenaw County in general. There's just nothing out there to buy. Often, people look to sell to us. So, we're in a position to buy things. And then, we use lots of resources to help buy down the mortgage with the down payment assistance. And that helps bring that mortgage payment down to an affordable rate. But in general, we work with buyers that are 30 to 80% of area median income. And for a family of four, that's roughly $80,000 a year. And the payments on houses now are going up because the houses are appraising from $170 to 220 and higher.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Rylee Barnsdale talking with Habitat for Humanity Huron Valley CEO Sarah Stanton. So, Sarah, one of these builds in this area is the Habitat Women Build Project. Can you give me some details on what Women Build is and what it means for one of these homes to be a Women Build supported project?

Sarah Stanton: It's wonderful! It's something we've been doing for several years, and it takes a different form each year a little bit. But the idea is basically bringing women together-- local women--to take a proactive step in serving the women of our community and getting involved in actually building or renovating a house. And so, they raise funds. We have sponsors that support. Like, the James L. Knight Foundation are a big supporter. And PNC is a big supporter of the Women Build. And the Ruth Nichols Foundation is also a supporter. And they come together ,and we'll build over 12 or 16 weeks. And women will pick a day, and they'll bring a team of people and come out. Like, I'm actually coming out with friends two weeks from now, June 14th on a Friday, to work all day. And so, you raise money. Tell everybody you're doing that. Bring them out. And then, we will do the work. So, whatever the work is that's lined up for that day, women will do it. And it's just fantastic fun. I don't know. It's just a great way to get your friends out and be involved in something that feels good in the community. And then, that house, typically, that we we try to find a buyer, that ends up being a woman-led household. But that's kind of secondary and it's really helping the community build together.

Rylee Barnsdale: And branching off of that community building piece, another one of these major partners on this Firwood Street project is also the Good News Group, as we mentioned--this collection of local congregations who, like Women Build, help raise funds. They provide volunteers. What has that partnership looked like?

Sarah Stanton: It's amazing! And I've been with Habitat a long time now. And the Good News house just been there much longer than me. And it is a group of congregations. Right now, I think there's 14 congregations. They bring resources to the table. And then, they'll have lead volunteers that will help recruit volunteers from each congregation, and they have each cover certain days and coordinate their volunteers. They often coordinate the lunches. They're just fantastic. It's such a core piece of Habitat. I mean, we wouldn't be able to do what we do without some of these kind of core volunteer groups. And Good News Group is one of the very best.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm talking with Sarah Stanton, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Huron Valley. Sarah, with all of these different pieces to the Habitat puzzle, so to speak, what has the community response been like to this particular project? You know, what do the neighbors think of what's going on on Firwood Street?

Sarah Stanton: Oh, it's been fantastic! And one of our neighbors is on our board of directors, as our vice president of our board lives right there in the community. And then, the next-door neighbor to the lots we're doing right now on Firwood, she's working closely with us because there were some easement things that we needed to work on. And it makes me feel really good because people are happy when Habitat comes because I think they look at it as "investment is coming." Habitat, I mean, that's what we bring is we bring resources. We kind of are a catalyst and leverage other resources. I remember when we first did Firwood years and years ago. And then, across the street, a man that owned three lots, he built two houses on his lots and sold them, which was great for the community. It was great to see development going. And it sort of leverages other development. It attracts investment. So, we've had a good response.

Rylee Barnsdale: Obviously, new home construction is at the mercy of not just budget, but also weather, availability of resources, those kinds of things. When does Habitat expect to have these new homes ready to list for potential new homeowners?

Sarah Stanton: These are in our schedule for Spring of '26, I think, is when they'll become available. So, we have six more houses that will become available in this next calendar year from now. And then, starting in the spring of '26, these houses will be getting finished and being sold. So, right now, we're doing about six houses a year.

Rylee Barnsdale: Well, thank you so much, Sarah, for taking the time to be here today! You know, the work that you and the rest of the Habitat team put into this community is really so important, and it's really exciting to see it take shape in real time.

Sarah Stanton: Well, thank you! Thanks! It's great to have your help! I really appreciate it. It's wonderful! Thanks for supporting us in this way! We need it! Thank you!

Rylee Barnsdale: For more information on today's topic and links to the full article, visit our website at wemu.org. On the Ground Ypsi is brought to you in partnership with Concentrate Media. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is your community NPR station. 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.

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Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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