Tiffany Watson is joyful when she thinks about moving her children into the green, three-bedroom house with peppercorn-colored shutters on Craig Street in the Northside neighborhood.
The 30-year-old single mom had been unable to find a home they could afford. She and her children – Malik, 7, Jordan, 4, and Maya, 2 – have been living with her mother a few blocks over on Lindsay Street for the children’s whole lives.
“It’s just a joyous feeling that you get to own your own home, and being able to pay for your own home and not having to pay rent,” Watson said. “And just to be by yourself, to be on your own. It makes me feel like I’m growing up now, because I’m not with my mama anymore.”
They are among three Habitat families who will call the half-acre lot at 605 Craig St. home next year. Several more homes are planned or under construction in the neighborhood.
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Habitat, the town of Chapel Hill and other partners raised a wall at one home Thursday after celebrating Northside’s residents and the Northside Neighborhood Initiative. The event featured state Sen. Valerie Foushee, who grew up in Northside and the nearby Pine Knolls neighborhood.
The Northside initiative supports the town’s affordable housing goals and the work of the Northside Compass Group, which came up with a plan for keeping and increasing the number of families living in Northside and Pine Knolls. Both historically African-American neighborhoods have been in transition.
“Today, we’ll have a chance to see the result of a transformative process: a transformation from dreams to hope, from hope to promise, and from promise to reality for innumerable families,” Foushee said.
Investors have bought up modest homes over the last 30 years that once housed UNC, town and blue-collar workers, replacing them with larger student rentals. The changes left the neighbors who remained with more traffic, noise and nuisance issues.
Northside lost about 40 percent of its black residents between 1980 and 2010, the U.S. Census shows, but the number grew last year to 717, up from 690 in 2010. Meanwhile, noise and nuisance complaints fell 60 percent, officials said, and the partners launched a tax mitigation program, bought 15 properties, built 12 affordable homes and duplexes, and made 31 critical repairs.
“This is collaboration in its truest, truest form,” Habitat executive director Susan Levy said. “This is happening every day in Northside and Pine Knolls, and in fact, this collaboration has been so effective that it’s being seen as a way for all of us to work together in the future in other neighborhoods, in other places, throughout Orange County.”
Northside lost about 40 percent of its black residents between 1980 and 2010, the U.S. Census shows, but the number grew last year to 717, up from 690 in 2010.
The effort got a big boost last year when UNC provided Durham-based nonprofit community developer Self-Help with a $3 million no-interest loan to help buy land and houses that then could be sold or rented to families.
Habitat bought the Craig Street lot from Self-Help, part of an $869,000 investment that included roughly $270,000 from the town’s affordable housing funds.
The houses will be sold for $155,000 to $195,000, payable at zero interest over 30 years, to families earning up to 60 percent of the area median income, or roughly $45,000 a year for a family of four. The families also invest 325 hours of sweat equity helping to build their home and others.
Watson said she’s learning a lot about construction and hopes to keep using that knowledge to build houses for others.
The Durham native grew up a few blocks over on Lindsay Street and already knows her neighbors, one of whom attended the same middle and high school. She left her studies at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro in 2008 while pregnant with her first child and got a job with the Rack Room Shoes in Cary.
Watson recently started the health information technologies program at Durham Tech and wants to become a financial counselor in the medical field.
But her first goal is trading the couch in her mother’s living room for her own master bedroom.
The Craig Street house also has an ample back yard, where Malik, Jordan and Maya can play soccer with friends and the still-unpacked toys waiting at their grandmother’s house.
“I wanted a place where my kids would be able to run around and play and, hopefully, one day, one of them could call their own, just to live and have their own family grow up,” Watson said. “This is excellent, first of all, to be able to build my own house, and then to be able to live there and say this is mine.”