FLINT, Michigan -- The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation announced two new initiatives this month aimed at helping Flint residents.
The first, is a new citywide program that will help residents looking to make repairs or improvements to their homes. Residents can now apply for low- or no-interest loans of up to $20,000 through the Flint Home Improvement Fund (Flint HIF). The loans are open to residents of all income levels who own and occupy single-family homes in Flint as their primary residence. Funding is not upon the assessed value of a home.
In addition, homeowners may not have to pay back the entire amount borrowed. The amount to be paid back will be determined on a sliding scale based on household income.
“This is a golden opportunity for residents to be able to make home improvements at a fraction of the cost,” said Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley in a statement. “The Flint Home Improvement Fund is a groundbreaking partnership that I am so proud is being launched in our city to help families, neighborhoods and the overall community.”
Partners from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors have come together to create and promote the Flint HIF, which will be managed by Genesee County Habitat for Humanity. Other partners include the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, City of Flint, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint (CFGF), Genesee County Land Bank Authority, Huntington National Bank, Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and the Neighborhood Engagement Hub.
The Mott Foundation granted a total of $661,878 to provide funding for no-interest home repair loans for low-income Flint residents and to support Habitat’s management of the program. MSHDA contributed $500,000 from its Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, which will be used to help homeowners with low to moderate incomes make improvements and repairs. CFGF granted $15,000 in funding for staff support to facilitate the loan program. In addition, Huntington will provide low-interest, unsecured home improvement loans for all income- and credit-qualifying borrowers.
“This is an exciting partnership that will remove the barriers many residents have faced in making repairs and improvements to their homes,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation, in a news release. “And that positive change will add up, home by home, to help strengthen neighborhoods across the city.”
Loans can be used for project that included but are not limited to furnace and hot water heater replacement; roof replacement or repairs; kitchen and bath upgrades, deck and porch replacement; and new siding.
“This is a monumental step toward creating a system where all homeowners in the city of Flint can access funds to improve their homes,” said Thomas Hutchison, executive director of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, in a news release. “By helping residents access capital to improve their homes with flexible and affordable repayment options, the Flint Home Improvement Fund strives to create strong neighborhoods where residents can maintain their homes while avoiding burdensome debt.”
After Flint homeowners apply to the Flint HIF, Genesee County Habitat for Humanity will work with them to see which funding applies to their income level and situation, as well as to answer any questions they may have.
“With sliding scale repayment options on these low- to no-interest loans, there is no reason not to apply. Even if you don’t qualify now, we will work to find a way to put you in a position where you can access these or other funds to repair your home,” Hutchison said.
Because loan approval will be based on funds available at the time of application, residents are encouraged to apply early. To support even more homeowners, Flint HIF partners are looking to bring additional resources to the fund. Information is available online or by calling (810) 766-9089 ext. 213.
The Mott Foundation also granted $208,579 to the Genesee Conservation District (GCD) for the removal of more than 330 dead and dangerous trees throughout the city of Flint.
The targeted trees are referred to as street trees, which are city-owned trees located in traffic islands, medians and the right-of-way between the sidewalk and the curb. GCD will focus on trees that are dead or declining in health and pose a danger to nearby people or properties. Tree removal is expected to begin later this winter.
“Our forestry work is improving safety while restoring neighborhood vitality through green infrastructure,” said Angela Warren, administrator at the GCD, in a news release. “The Genesee Conservation District will continue to encourage and activate conservation in the revitalization of our neighborhoods and community.
A comprehensive inventory and assessment completed in April 2015 identified and analyzed the entire street tree canopy in Flint. All trees were assessed based on viability and safety considerations.
Since 2015, GCD and the City of Flint Street Maintenance Department have removed more than 3,500 street trees and trimmed nearly 1,600 in Flint. Today, there are approximately 26,000 street trees in Flint. The benefits of a vibrant urban forest are numerous, Warren said.
The trees chosen for removal will be marked. Flint residents who live at a location where a street tree will be removed will receive a letter from the GCD this month explaining the process. Residents can contact the City of Flint Street Maintenance Department at (810) 766-7343 to report trees suspected of being dead or dangerous, or to request that a tree be inspected, pruned, or have its canopy raised. When it is time to plant more trees, residents will be invited to provide input.