Nazareth Housing: Turning Houses into Homes, Building Up Neighborhoods (Part One) – 2013-03-06

Dare To Be Different

By Katie Sobiech

There is nothing better than having a nice, safe place to call home. Arguably, it is something that everyone deserves.

Nazareth Housing Development Corporation (NHDC), a faith inspired, 501 (c) (3) non-profit community housing developer believes this to be true. They have been around since the 1990’s, but first broke ground in August 2002, rehabbing nearly 40 houses since then.

“I believe that housing is really important to people’s lives. Not everyone should be a homeowner, but everyone should have a nice place to live and it shouldn’t cost too much. Nazareth Housing is able to do a combination of work – take care of the houses and families,” Nanci Self, Executive Director of Nazareth Housing Development Corporation, said.

NHDC’s mission is to help low to moderate income people access affordable housing, but their overall vision is much bigger. They hope to eliminate blighted and inadequate housing by replacing it with safe, well-constructed, new and rehabilitated homes to “plant seeds that will help give rebirth and revitalize affected neighborhoods” (www.nazarethhousing.org).

Their hope is that those neighborhoods will become the seeds that revitalize the city and county, by revitalizing and re-energizing the people who have been helped.

Church Inspired Roots

Nazareth Housing

The entire mission began about 20 years ago with a humble group of people who dedicated their lives to their faith: the Catholic Commission and four Catholic parishes on the west side of Akron.

“There was an initiative called ‘Church in the City’,” Self recalls.

“Churches started falling apart and not being as strong as they could be. A lot (of this was) because people were leaving the inner cities. Bishop Anthony M. Pilla felt that we are our brothers’ keepers and that, even if we don’t choose to live in the inner cities, we should still tend to them. He’s challenged people to find ways to take care of the cores of the cities. A lot of people got together with four priests on the West Side of Akron and that’s how this was born,” she continued.

This established them as the faith-inspired and faith-rooted organization that they are today. The sense of social justice and caring for people’s basic needs remains strong to this day.

Their Mission and Work

Nazareth Housing

NHDC looks to build affordable houses in the vicinities of those very same perishes on the West Side.

“The mission was always to create affordable housing,” Self said.

It was a trio of women (who made some changes) that really got the organization on its feet,” she continued, “They learned that to create affordable housing in this area and have it survive you have to fit a model called ‘Community Housing Development Organizations’,” Self said.

Self says that this model helps them work more strategically and cohesively.

Around this time they also expanded their target area to include all of Summit County.

Making Home Ownership Dreams Come True

Nazareth Housing

“There’s been an extreme amount of foreclosures in Summit County in the last six or seven years. The sooner we can get these houses into the hands of someone who will actually take care of them, the better it is for the neighborhood,” Self said.

“With the counties blessing we bought 12 houses and have been working on them. Some are sold, some are still available,” she continued.

Though housing is their main focus, they realize that not everyone can afford to live in a home, so they are developing a rental program as well.

“We make it our mission to help families and individuals with their houses, more often than not through home ownership. We look for vacant and abandoned houses that are repairable,” Self explained.

“If they’re eligible and jump through all the hoops we set up – and we try to make it hard – because homeownership takes a lot of work. We don’t want to make it too easy. This is a lot of money given to help with your house. We want people to really understand what a blessing and gift it really is,” she explained.

Those interested are required to take homeownership and financial literacy classes.

Improving Houses and Neighborhoods

NHDC also has a program for those who already own a home which needs repair.

“It’s a part of our mission to help stabilize the neighborhood. We want to take care of neighborhoods, as well as families and houses,” Self said.

They do a lot of their work in Springfield, Lakemore, North Hill and Summit Lake.

Much of this includes removing lead and doing rehab work.

“We’re looking for houses heavy with lead. The lead paint is hazardous to children,” Self said.

They also work in collaboration with different community groups to seek the best for neighborhoods.

Watch for Part Two later this week on their work with others in the community, what makes them different from other housing projects and volunteer opportunities.

For more info. visit http://www.nazarethhousing.org

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