A HAPPY HOMEOWNER—Dreaming of becoming a homeowner, former Homewood resident Gerald McClendon stands in front of his completely renovated house in East Liberty. Also pictured is part of a home that volunteers continue to rehab.
by Diane I. Daniels, For New Pittsburgh Courier
At a time in Pittsburgh when affordable housing is reported to be of short supply, the summer of 2019 was an exciting time for residents of Enright Court.
It was particularly exciting and a milestone for 56-year-old Gerald McClendon. “I have always wanted to own a home,” he proclaimed.
On June 21, his dream became a reality when he moved into a completely rehabilitated three-bedroom townhouse in an enclave where townhomes are situated at the gateway of East Liberty.
After years of neglect and now under the leadership of East Liberty Development Inc., the development of 100 units originally designed almost 50 years ago to provide affordable homeownership is being revitalized with the assistance of many other cohorts. Original partners included: the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh; Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh; Federal Home Loan Bank; and First Commonwealth Bank.
Involved with the project since 2016, Maelene Myers, ELDI executive director, is excited about what’s occurring in Enright Court. Myers stressed at a June ceremony the importance of public and private sectors, nonprofit organizations, residents and volunteers working together.
Over 50 volunteers inclusive of adults and teenagers participated in a “Blitz Build” in Enright Court consisting of participants from an organization from Maryland. The week of activities was organized by ELDI and DreamBuilders.
Established in 2002, DreamBuilders is an all-volunteer, faith-based organization leading national and international work trips, plus workdays in Maryland helping build and repair homes for people in need.
Throughout the seven day Blitz Build, ELDI representatives said seven units were worked on simultaneously. Work consisted of cleanouts and demolitions, new doors, windows and siding, new gutters, drywall, and landscaping. A new fence was also installed at the entrance of the development. According to Myers, the Blitz Build is part of a longer-term effort ELDI is making with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh to benefit 26 homes within the development.
“These types of projects never seem to amaze me. The kind of impact and the difference that can be made when a group of committed folks unite and put their hearts and minds together,” said John Connor, a national grant writer based in West Virginia. Connor wrote the ELDI grant proposal and has penned grants for other neighborhood and community development organizations in Pittsburgh.
Mary Hester, an affordable homeownership specialist at ELDI and the principal of Life Venture Real Estate Solutions, focuses on the homeownership end of the project. Hester helps oversee a three-way partnership between ELDI, Life Venture Real Estate Solutions and Circles Greater Pittsburgh (headed by Tammy Thompson), in which the goal is to prepare potential buyers for homeownership in Enright Court where prices range between $120,000 to $150,000 based on unit size.
“The URA provides a subsidy of up to $30,000 per unit for qualified buyers with conditions,” Hester explained.
Outlining the three-way collaboration, she said ELDI has the inventory of homes for sale; Circles provides homeownership training to prepare future homebuyers; and Life Venture Real Estate Solutions makes the sale possible. Two other partners in the process, the URA and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, provides subsidies to achieve affordability.
Hester, passionate about what she does, says the three-point mission of Life Venture Real Estate Solutions is to inform homebuyers of real estate opportunities providing access to available resources, subsidies and the education necessary to become an informed homebuyer. Also, to provide community outreach to underserved stakeholders in the communities in which they live and to work closely with partnering organizations to build relationships and strong stable communities.
With the belief that no one should live in poverty, and if given the right tools and support, economic stability can be achieved, the mission of Circles Greater Pittsburgh is to inspire and equip Pittsburgh area families and communities to resolve poverty and thrive. As a result, Thompson’s organization provides a comprehensive homeownership program that guides individuals through the journey of homeownership, named the Developing Ownership Opportunities for Residents Homeownership Education Program. The 10-week program addresses specific needs of first-time homebuyers and the challenges and barriers they may face.
“The D.O.O.R. classes were helpful for me,” said McClendon. “As a matter of fact, working with ELDI through the process has been a rewarding experience.”
Because of Enright Court’s easy access to the Port Authority Transit Center, Target, Bakery Square and other amenities in East Liberty, he views the area as soon becoming one of the hottest communities in Pittsburgh, if it’s not already.
“There are a few other communities in the area similar to Enright Court like Park Hill Drive in East Hills,” said Myers. “Our goal through continued partnerships is to go into the areas and create the same type of rehabilitation efforts.
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