Years Later, Affordable Housing Initiative Paying Dividends

In 2013, construction crews finished the final home as part of an affordable housing initiative in Evansville's south side. Two years later, Evansville city officials believe the $9.5 million program largely funded by private investors is already paying dividends.

Hope of Evansville, the city of Evansville and the developer NRP Group out of Cleveland, Ohio, partnered together in late 2011 to tear down nearly 200 abandoned, blighted and dilapidated structures within a five block area in Evansville's Goosetown neighborhood. In place of those structures, 80 new homes were built. The multi-million dollar program was overwhelmingly funded by NRP Group, a property developer and tax credit specialist. In return, NRP received annual tax credits over 10 years.

The finishing touches on the last house were done in mid-2013.

Years after the paint dried, progress has been made, said Department of Metropolitan Development Director Kelley Coures.

"The best way to fight crime is through lit windows on a street," Coures said. "The Goosetown neighborhood is one of the quietest, safest neighborhoods that you can find now. Goosetown, Blackford's Grove, these neighborhoods where the homes have been built, are a great example of landbanking."

It was landbanking before landbanking, Coures said. By clearing the lots of abandoned properties and debris, the city's Brownsfield Corp. acquired the deeds and held them until the developer had an end use. The families that moved into the 80 new homes either qualified for down payment assistance or are living at the home on a lease-to-own basis. After leasing the home for 15 years, the tenant will have the ability to purchase the home at a discounted rate, Coures said.

The homes are all occupied at this time, Coures said.

A similar program was championed by Mayor Lloyd Winnecke earlier this year. However, the City Council eliminated funding from the 2016 budget.

With the affordable housing initiative in Goosetown already being deemed a success, Coures hopes it can be duplicated elsewhere in the city.

"The homes blend well. I think they sell well. I think they have nice curb appeal," Coures said. "The agencies work to find residents for these homes and buyers for these homes who will not only enjoy living there but will take care of them. The home looks exactly like it did when it was built."

The city and county lose $2 million a year in unpaid property taxes. While the affordable housing initiative in Goosetown certainly won't be a cure all, it certainly will have an impact. If similar programs are implemented in other areas of the city, a significant dent could be made in that $2 million burden, Coures said.

Eighty families have new homes but it could be argued that they're not the only ones benefiting.

"It's what my whole job is about: building wealth, building neighborhoods, reclaiming neighborhoods that have seen disinvestment," Coures said. "From this street all the way over to Haynie's Corner, this neighborhood is back."


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