Resident Services News

Game Changers

Game Changers

Posted: 03-04-2011

My 15 year old daughter plays basketball.  Not just at her school but with AAU, AYBT, travel teams, and camps. She has basketball themed birthday parties; her room is full of mini- basketballs, Nerf basketball hoops, medals, trophies, t-shirts, shoes. I mean we deal with a lot of basketball.  I can honestly say I have spent hundreds on her desire to play basketball.  I asked her the other day, “Do you want to simply play basketball or do you want to be a game changer?”  I watched her as she carefully thought about the question and I couldn’t help but ask myself that very same question.  “Do I want to just to take part in doing good work or do I wish to be a game-changer?”  Well, as Director of Housing Services here at LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. that is exactly what I am and exactly what I do.  Change the game.

I have been here at LINC for almost six years and been a part of some exciting projects.  When the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) was created, LINC saw an opportunity for us to create lasting impact within our neighborhoods.   Through NSP we are able to work with intentionality.   Months of planning and preparation take place to ensure we strategically select homes to purchase and renovate in order to create the largest impact.  The properties we select must create positive impacts on our targeted communities like Southtown.  Research show us that “border” or “flow-through” neighborhoods, if maintained, can help strengthen the adjacent neighborhoods.

Giddings Avenue is a part of one of the core neighborhoods within Kent County and the City of Grand Rapids.  Giddings is what we call a “tipping-point” neighborhood.  In order to “tip” the neighborhood in a direction of sustainable growth and development, LINC purchased five homes all within the 1400-1700 block of Giddings, which was riddled with foreclosures and about a dozen run-down duplexes.  To increase the rate of homeownership the houses were de-converted from duplexes to single family homes. 

We have had great success on this block by reaching out to the current residents on the block and including them in on our plans for the homes.  Open houses were held and we have sold two of the homes already and have two more sales pending and the construction for the final home will begin early spring.  Due to the participation of residents and the approach taken for development in this neighborhood, a small housing opportunity turned into a holistic revitalization, changing the lives of several home owners. 

LINC has used the same strategy in previous renovations, but the impacts have been limited because they occurred in isolation.  Until Giddings, we have not had such a presence on a block at one time.  The theory behind the tipping point neighborhood is that by strengthening this block of Giddings, we in essence strengthen the surrounding blocks.  We have invested over $400,000 on the Giddings block alone and continue to invest in near-by neighborhoods.  

In an effort to link people and place we meet with residents, businesses and local leaders to see what they envision for their block.  This buy-in and community participation is crucial for the success and sustainability of the neighborhood’s growth.  Housing development is much greater than the home itself.  As we look beyond that, I believe we change the face of what renovating and rehabbing homes is all about.  LINC has become a “Game-Changer” in the field as we seek to holistically revitalize neighborhoods by working directly with residents, equipping them to take ownership of the growth and development, and by partnering our resources with the resources already inherent in the community.