The city has entered into an agreement with Habitat for Humanity to allow volunteers to repaint blighted homes in low-income neighborhoods.
“Every single Mobilian deserves a neighborhood they feel proud to be a part of,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement. “We believe we can make a measurable impact in reducing blight, setting the groundwork for significant neighborhood revitalization.”
The Paint Pilot Program will kick off by targeting 16 homes in the Campground neighborhood and possibly expanding from there, James Roberts, associate director of community and housing development, said. The 16 homes chosen along State Street for the first round of work meet the requirements proposed by the Bloomberg Innovation Team through a comprehensive, digitally mapped inventory of every blighted structure in the city. They are currently going through Habitat’s intake and environmental review process before work can begin.
“Typically these are not going to have structural damage,” Roberts said. “This is exterior work, repaint and touch-up.”
Unlike typical Habitat projects, the homes are already owner-occupied and thus the organization is not looking for new homeowners, Cliff Barros, Habitat for Humanity executive director, said. Volunteers will mostly be responsible for painting the homes, but in some cases they will replace siding and do some light landscaping, Barros said. No major repairs will be done to the homes. The work is about 30 to 60 days out, he said.
In the meantime, the city and Habitat are in the process of selling the project to the current homeowners, which they acknowledge could be a challenge at first.
“We’ve done a few of these projects before,” Barros said. “People don’t know what to expect and they don’t trust you. Once we put some paint on a house, it’ll get more popular.”
Roberts said there have been concerns from some homeowners who believe the city is going to take possession of the houses once the painting is finished, which is not the case.
Councilman Levon Manzie, who represents the area, said he wants to assure residents that they can trust the city and that the program is only intended to help beautify the neighborhood.
Manzie said he supports the program and would be one of the volunteers.
The city entered into a $50,000 contract with Habitat to manage the program. The money came from a federal community development block grant and the contract was approved by the Mobile City Council in August, Roberts said.
The Bloomberg I-Team is funded through a $1.6 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The I-Team is funded for a total of three years and is currently in the process of shortening the time it takes to deal with blighted properties.