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Fair Housing Month Celebrates New Ownership in Terry Heights Neighborhood

April 27, 2015
(Huntsville, AL) - In April 1968, one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, fulfilling one of the slain civil rights leader's longstanding goals to end housing discrimination. The federal act and subsequent amendments made it illegal to refuse to rent, sell or broker a house or apartment to people because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or family status.

In recognition of this landmark legislation, April is celebrated as Fair Housing Month (see fact sheet below). The City of Huntsville is proud of its efforts to guarantee fair housing for its citizens and points to recent work in the Terry Heights/Hillendale neighborhoods as one of its most successful efforts. Working through the HOME and the Down Payment Assistance programs, Community Development began constructing new housing in this area five years ago, and since its start, 22 properties have been built and purchased by first time home buyers.

"Our new homeowners have proven to be excellent stewards, and not one of those properties has been foreclosed," said Community Development Director Ken Benion. "Originally, when we began this program, we had some resistance from neighbors who were concerned these homes might bring down their property values. Now that they've seen the quality product we are building and how it actually increases the value of their homes, they want us to build more."

The latest property at 903 Appleby Street in Terry Heights, sold on April 14, highlights the impact that Fair Housing has on real families. The home's new owner is TreShaun Hambrick, who works the third shift at National Copper. She hadn't told her 6-year-old daughter Sanaa that she was buying the house, and on Tuesday afternoon, after she'd picked her up from Blossomwood Elementary School, she brought her to their new home. Sanaa had been asking her mother when she was going to be able to have a room of her own.

"When I told her, she just screamed and hugged me five times," Hambrick said. "This is such a blessing."

Hambrick had been paying $450 in monthly rent for a cramped, older home that she and her daughter shared. Her new mortgage, including property tax and insurance, is actually one dollar less than her previous rent payment.

"This home ownership program is important in allowing families to fulfill their dreams and become a vested participant in their neighborhoods," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. "Looking at the impact these new homes have had on the Terry Heights neighborhood has spurred other residents to become more active and help to revitalize and improve their communities. With the new school, Sonnie Hereford Elementary coming on board, and energized neighbors working hand and hand with us, this is an exciting place to be."



Each year, April is recognized as Fair Housing Month, but the City of Huntsville's Community Development focuses on Fair Housing every month of the year. As part of the City's ongoing effort to build an inclusive community, Community Development works to ensure that fair and affordable housing options are available to everyone.

The mission of the Community Development Department is three-fold:
o The stabilization of lower income neighborhoods
o The economic empowerment of lower income persons
o The provision of assistance to the special needs population in our community

Community Development offers several programs to assist first?time home buyers achieve their dreams of homeownership by providing quality housing at a reasonable price through the HOME and the Down Payment Assistance programs.

Since Community Development began new construction in Terry Heights and Hillendale five years ago, 22 homes have been built. And all 22 homes have been sold. They have helped stabilize these neighborhoods and improve homes values.

Every five years, Community Development must create a Consolidated Plan which details to HUD how the city envisions providing decent housing, a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities primarily for low and moderate?income persons.

The City's 2015 plan is expected to be approved by the City Council within the next two weeks. In this document, Community Development states its plan to move forward in the next five years by:
o Providing up to $5,000 for 100 families in Downpayment Assistance to low- to moderate-income first-time homebuyers over the next five years.
o Providing housing counseling for up to 100 families annually.
o Building up to 10 (annually) new housing units
o Rehabbing three housing units (annually) in target neighborhoods
o Spending up to $750,000 (annually) on up to 50 houses via the Deferred Home Maintenance Repair Program
o Spending $200,000 annually for youth development for tutoring, mentoring, job and work readiness


For more information, please contact:

Kelly Cooper Schrimsher, Director of Communications, Office of the Mayor, 256-427-5006 (w), kelly.schrimsher@huntsvilleal.gov

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