Newark, NJ – June 1, 2021 – Mayor Ras J. Baraka joined Invest Newark, Newark’s Economic Development Corporation, and other dignitaries to host a ribbon cutting event for the organization’s “Section 8 Homeownership Conversion Program,” where they handed over the keys of subsidized redeveloped properties to three families. The event marked the beginning of the newly-operational program. The ceremony took place today, at 92 South 10th Street, between Central Avenue and 9th Avenue.
This partnership of public and private sector stakeholders is part of Mayor Baraka’s strategy to increase homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families. It uses properties transferred to the Newark Land Bank from the City of Newark’s Department of Economic and Housing Development to enable first time homebuyers and create access to capital and more equitable opportunities for MWBE contractors across Newark.
“Increasing homeownership for Newark residents, regardless of income level, is one of the important reasons why we created the Land Bank and the Live Newark Closing Cost Program. Through this partnership of the City, Invest Newark and the Newark Housing Authority, numerous residents will enjoy the independence and empowerment of achieving the American Dream of home ownership,” said Mayor Baraka. “At the same time, it achieves other goals of the Land Bank: transforming blighted properties, restoring our city’s economic strength, and reviving neighborhoods.”
The three initial properties that have been completed in the program are move-in ready for the families, who have been selected through a lottery. Section 8 Homeownership allows qualified Section 8 recipients to use their rental vouchers and down payment assistance to purchase single-family homes.
“Newark’s award-winning Section 8 Homeownership Conversion Program is a national model for comprehensive economic mobility,” said Bernel Hall, President and CEO of Invest Newark. In accordance with Invest Newark’s mission of advancing prosperity for all Newarkers, we are helping working class residents realize the dream of homeowners, extending contract opportunities to local developers while removing blight and expanding the City’s tax base.”
Currently, blighted homes are costing the city millions of dollars each year. For three existing homes from the Land Bank, Invest Newark has provided funds for the complete development costs, a total of $550,000. This not only provides value for the new homeowner with over $40,000 in equity, but also creates 50 construction jobs for the community.
Bruce Marks, NACA CEO and Founder, said, “We are excited to provide access to NACA’s Best in America Mortgage: No down payment, No closing costs, No mortgage insurance at a below market fixed rate without consideration of one’s credit score. People who receive Section 8 support are hard workers and have only recently been recognized as essential workers despite being underpaid. This program provides the opportunity for them to become owners and create generational wealth. We expect many more people and families to follow in their footsteps.”
“I applaud this new partnership as it allows us to identify Section 8 participants who are ready to undertake the dream of homeownership while building equity and wealth,” said Victor Cirilo, Executive Director of Newark Housing Authority.
The Urban League of Essex County (ULEC) will be providing the new homeowners with mandatory HUD Certified Homeownership Counseling, where they will assign HUD Certified Coaches to work with new homeowners after their purchase. Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC) is supporting ULEC for this counseling, which will cover all homeownership trials and issues, along with solutions and best practices.
“We are excited to partner with Invest Newark and the City of Newark to develop pathways for families to build wealth,” said Vivian Cox Fraser, President and CEO, Urban League of Essex County. “This is a unique initiative to help families move from subsidized housing to home ownership. Our HUD approved counselors and financial coaches will help families sustain their homeownership and build their financial capability.”
The program also focuses on investing in existing neighborhoods, utilizing local minority and/or women-owned business enterprises (MWBE) contractors and building the wealth of Newark residents. This collaboration has led Invest Newark to cultivate a database of local General Contractors and/or Developers to be utilized for future projects to create more local employment, help stimulate the local economy and build a more diverse pool of developers for future projects.
“I am honored to work with Invest Newark. To be involved in this program, to build lives and community development, is a great thing for Newark,” said Randy McMaster, RMCM Construction Company LLC, developer of 73½ Cutler Street. “There is a lot more to be done and I look forward to contributing my skills to the community as we as a people continue to grow.”
“We are growing and we see that our business is on the right track. We owe a great deal of thanks to Invest Newark for putting us in a position to grow and succeed,” said Ray Hamlett of Hamlett Development Partners, who refurbished 92 South 10th Street. “As an affordable housing contractor and developer, the benefits of working for Invest Newark are two-folds for us. We have the satisfaction of knowing that a low income homebuyer will be given the opportunity to build equity from the value and quality of our work, coupled with an increase in business revenue, especially during the covid-19 shutdowns.”
“I’m in disbelief as to how fast Invest Newark and NACA worked together to help me become a homeowner,” said Hakeemah Neal, one of the new homeowners in the Section 8 program. “In less than eight months’ time, along with the professional and caring staff of both departments my dreams came true. I’m so excited to start this journey, this is something I dreamed of for my family and Invest Newark and NACA have made it come true! Thanks to all the kind and professional people, I met on the way to my dreams. Unbelievable!”
“I would like to thank God, Invest Newark, Section 8, and the City of Newark for this amazing opportunity to become a homeowner,” said Ramonia Addison, another Section 8 recipient. “My children and I are super excited to begin our new journey in our new home!”
“First, I want to thank all hands involved in the process of making my dream come true (Section 8 Program, Invest Newark and NACA),” said Charlene Spann. “I have obtained the property located at 92 South 10thStreet. I am glad I was chosen to go through the process and overly excited to have completed such a great accomplishment. It has not yet hit me that I am really a homeowner; something I always wanted to be. There were times I wanted to give up, but I prayed to God to give me the strength and patience to see the process through not only for me, but for my kids. Now my kids have somewhere they really can call home. Once again, I thank you all for making my dream come to life.”
Invest Newark hopes to expand the program and refurbish more properties to provide additional families the opportunity to purchase their first home. Financial commitments for expansion of the program have been made by NACA with its Best in America Mortgage for NACA’s Home Ownership through Public Housing Assistance (HOTPHA) program. This program allows participants who are first-time homeowners to utilize their Housing Choice Voucher (“HCV”) to purchase a home of their own through NACA’s home ownership program. NACA provides the Best Mortgage in America and utilizes the Housing Choice Voucher for a significant portion of the mortgage payment making homeownership possible and affordable for the Section 8 participant. Alongside NACA, Invest Newark is primed to provide a successful program for the residents of Newark.