RICHMOND, Va - Tears and hugs filled filled Krystal Douglas' new home in the Maymont neighborhood Tuesday. Next month, the mother of five will move her family into a home near Texas Beach in Richmond, a structure that sat vacant and boarded up for more than a decade.
Through a program run by Habitat for Humanity and Project:HOMES, more than 30 properties owned by Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) are getting rehabbed into affordable housing for families who otherwise might not be able to purchase a home completely on their own.
"Being a single mom and working jobs that don't pay much, it seems like you're never going to get ahead, never going to get ahead, never going to get ahead," said Douglas, who's family currently lives in a small apartment in South Richmond. "It means a lot. I've got a five and 10-year-old who love to be outside."
Douglas applied and was approved to take part in the program, which requires homeowners to take up to 18-months of budgeting and ownership courses before closing on their home.
For this specific project in the Maymont neighborhood, the two local housing non-profits pay the city (RRHA) a small fee to acquire the properties with an agreement that they will rehab them within 18 months. Then the organizations link approved perspective home buyers, like Douglas, with the homes in areas they would like live. The buyer then purchases the home through an agreement with the nonprofit.
"There is a huge affordable housing issue in Richmond," said Jane Helfrich, CEO Richmond Habitat for Humanity. "We work to change both the lives of families and individuals, but also the landscape in Richmond."
Helfrich said the potential for programs like this in Central Virginia is enormous. There are thousands of families in the region who face economic barriers to home ownership they could not tackle solo and many vacant homes in the region.
"We've got a lot of work to do. . . I just learned yesterday from my land bank meeting [there are] 2,000 properties that are probably very delinquent, on-average five years, and vacant. We're not here to throw any grannies on the street," Helfrich said. "We could not only serve the individuals and families that need them, but we could also revitalize the neighborhoods."
Douglas and her children plan to move into their new home next month. Her level of excitement may only be met by the amount of work she put into the home. On top of the classes, Habitat owners are required to work 350 hours on either their own home or someone else's property.
"I worked, and here I go!" Douglas said with a grin. "I mean, I'm a homeowner! It's beautiful, it's quiet, I get to have cookouts, I get to enjoy my life."