Local partnership helps make homeownership possible

To some it may just be another house, but to the students and staff of Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center (CTC), it’s an accomplishment, a job well done; and to the new owner, well – it’s a home.

For the second consecutive year, CTC has partnered with the Neighborhood Housing Partnership of Greater Springfield (NHP) to construct a new house in the southwest quadrant of Springfield – 810 Clifton Ave. is expected to be completed in May 2021.

CTC students from the carpentry, electrical and HVAC programs will spend the school year constructing the new home for a deserving buyer.

“(The students) really enjoy it,” says John Schmid, CTC carpentry instructor. “Just about every day they take a picture of what they got done that day.”

Schmid hopes his students will take the skills they have learned on the housing project and enter their field of study upon graduation, but at the very least, he says, “They will have a working knowledge of how a house is built. Even if they don’t go into the industry, they can still set a door or window in their own house later in life. This gives them a basic knowledge of construction.”

Greg Womacks, executive director of NHP says the partnership with CTC is fun and exciting.

“It’s just exciting on all fronts when you realize that young students are learning a trade, and you are assisting in their education,” he says. “It’s hard to think about without smiling. We enjoy this partnership immensely.”

Formed in 2002, NHP is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing and preserving homeownership, promoting the development and rehabilitation of housing, and supporting vibrant, healthy neighborhoods.

NHP is overseen by a diverse board of trustees comprised of neighborhood residents, business and government, minority and low-income representatives.

The land at 810 Clifton Ave. is owned by NHP. The City of Springfield provides funding through its Home Funds program to build the home, which this year already has a buyer. Proceeds from the sale of the home will go back to the City’s Home Funds program.

“The buyer has to meet income criteria which is a lower to moderate income,” Womacks says. “NHP works with local realtor Sheila Rice who really knows the community. When we start to build the house, we get ahold of her, and she begins looking.”

Womacks says Rice has only reported one problem: there are more buyers than houses.

“I don’t think we have a shortage of people that are ready to step up and prepare their credit and budgets to purchase a home,” says Womacks. “Some are paying such a high rent they can actually easily afford a house payment.”

This year’s home buyer has the opportunity to have a say in the finishing touches on the home, such as countertops and colors.

“It’s not often we have a buyer this early,” Womacks says. “We have already reached out to her so we can talk about some things she can make decisions on. We’re hoping in the future to always have this so they can make some of the final decisions and make it their home.”

NHP has been fortunate to easily find buyers for the homes, but the long-term goal is to build three houses per year in the target area of Springfield, he says.

The partnership with CTC also came easily to the NHP, Womacks says.

“We reached out to CTC, spoke with the superintendent, talked about their programs, and created a budget,” he says. “Reduced cost is a positive for the City. We want to work with (CTC) as much as we can.”

The first home CTC students built for NHP – 800 Clifton Ave. – was completed in May of this year. Because of COVID-19 safety guidelines, however, the completed home was presented via virtual open house at CTC’s graduation ceremony.

“It’s just a whole lot of fun to interact with the students as they’re learning how to do stuff,” says Womacks. “It’s one of the greatest things we do, a great partnership.”

NHP’s focus is to assist as many residents in Springfield as possible with affordable housing issues, whether its repairs or building a house for someone, Womacks says.

“When you bring in a group, such as CTC, and you have students there, you look at the project in a whole new way,” he says. “Joining together always creates more for the community than doing it on our own.”

Michelle Patrick, Superintendent of Springfield-Clark CTC, agrees. She says CTC appreciates being able to have hands-on experience for its students in the community and to be able to give to the community at the same time.

“We always try to do a project house in general, but the fact that we can do one that is about improving and giving to the community and helping through the NHP initiative is invaluable,” Patrick says. “I hope our students see that as well. They are always proud of the work that they do, but this is like ‘double pride.’”

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Read more articles by Darci Jordan.