Grand Duval Neighborhood ‘Revitalization’ Begins Under Gainesville Pilot Program

Ashley Burke couldn’t believe her eyes as she watched volunteers sawing wood for her new three-bedroom home in the Greater Duval neighborhood on Monday morning.

This will be the first house his family will own.

The house at 1609 NE Ninth Ave. is among the first 11 to be funded under a pilot land donation program.

The City of Gainesville is donating the land and Alachua Habitat for Humanity is developing the homes with the help of donations, grants, volunteers, and down payment from prospective homeowners.

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Habitat continues to seek customers:

Last year, the City Commission of Gainesville selected Alachua Habitat for Humanity to develop 2, 3, and 4-bedroom homes on lots for sale to new income-eligible homeowners.

Alachua Habitat for Humanity

The nonprofit developer plans to complete construction of the first four homes within two years.

The city keeps single-family home costs permanently affordable through a requirement in its housing agreement that limits sales to income-qualified buyers.

Neighbors such as Burke whose household income does not exceed 80% of the area’s median income as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development may be eligible to purchase one of the affordable homes.

In Gainesville, a family of four whose annual income does not exceed $58,550 may qualify, while the income limit for a single applicant would be $41,000.

“I’ve never had a moment where I felt so special,” Burke said as she stood near the new foundation of her home. “Maybe another time when I was coming back from Iraq (military tour) when everyone was cheering at the airport.”

Burke, 33, graduated from Eastside High School in 2006 and grew up in the Duval neighborhood.

The single stay-at-home mom said she has been unable to buy a house until now due to poor financial decisions at a young age that led to credit issues, which have been fixed.

As a result, she said she continued to struggle to pay high rent for apartments that often had unresolved maintenance issues such as mold.

She said her daughter, Aubrey, was thrilled to finally be able to move into her own home.

“I’m engaged to a really good guy,” Burke said. “It was really difficult. He’s my only child. Her father was just murdered last year. (With the house), I can give (Aubrey) something to look forward to. She is super excited. It was very difficult to cheer him up. She could see that Mom is trying to work for a place we call home.

Burke and several other new owners expressed their gratitude at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday attended by city and county officials as well as neighborhood residents.

Mayor Lauren Poe told the crowd that the project had been delayed due to the pandemic, as it was considered in 2019 by the city’s neighborhood improvement staff.

“Rather than just continuing to give one batch at a time, they had a vision that greater impact could be achieved by putting multiple batches together,” he said.

In 2021, the city announced that a nonprofit would partner with them in the effort, and Alachua Habitat for Humanity was chosen.

“We wanted to do this with the neighborhood, not for the neighborhood,” he said. “Greater Duval is a great example of empowerment.

Poe said he remembered going to one of the community meetings in the Duval neighborhood early in his term as mayor and the residents creating their own strategic plan without any help from the city.

And part of that plan is that they wanted to bring in three to four new neighbors every year, he said.

Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker, who represents the district, expressed excitement over the sounds of construction in the background.

“I want us to just take a moment to say, ‘This is the sound of revitalization. This is the sound of revitalization,'” she said. about it?I’m definitely excited about it.

Duncan-Walker, whose family has lived in the Duval neighborhood for more than 60 years, said neighbors played a major role in getting the project off the ground.

“Your input was absolutely vital and got us to the point,” she said.

Gainesville Community Reinvestment Area

Gainesville Community Reinvestment Area Manager Sarah Vidal said it was a great collaborative project.

“It’s a wonderful example of how when many departments come together and leverage what we each have to bring, how we can do something great,” she said.

She said they were able to fund the new 9th Avenue Extension Road project, which “makes more land available for redevelopment” in the area.

Rev. Earnestine Butler, senior pastor of the Agape Faith Center, said they wanted well-built homes that they could pass on to their neighborhood children, and these new homes fit the bill.

“Our homes need to be secure. It needs to be a safe place, a quiet neighborhood, a loving neighborhood, and that’s what we did in Grand Duval,” she said. “We all stayed together. We are gathered. We envision bigger projects, doing better things.

Scott Winzeler, director of outreach and development for Alachua Habitat for Humanity, said the collaboration to launch the project “is groundbreaking in every sense of the word.”

“We are ushering in a partnership with residents of Greater Duval and housing that will unify, solidify, but not gentrify the character of this neighborhood,” he said.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Affordable housing pilot program ushers in Duval community

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