The city also faces a crisis-level shortage of low-income housing, and renewing urban neighborhoods is one way to fill that void while improving conditions for residents.
That’s why Johnson City residents should be grateful to the leadership provided by Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union in securing a $1 million grant to improve low- and moderate-income housing in Johnson City.
As Staff Writer Zach Vance reported in Tuesday’s edition, the U.S. Treasury grant will improve neighborhoods through home renovation projects and provide mortgage loans to assist families gain home ownership. Working with the newly-formed nonprofit Appalachian Opportunity Fund, the credit union hopes to help more than 100 families over the next five years.
ACFCU CEO Ron Scott described home ownership as transformative, allowing families to build wealth and stability. He also told Vance that renewing such neighborhoods can be difficult, because houses that could be improved often are owned by investors as rental property, usually meaning fewer improvements.
Scott is right. Homeownership means a personal investment — both emotionally and financially — and that’s key to both a family’s and a neighborhood’s potential for success.
The project has symbiosis with another effort already underway in Johnson City — the transformation of the Langston High School property on East Myrtle Avenue and Elm Street, presenting a unique opportunity for that neighborhood’s improvement. Prodded by alumni, the city at long last is remodeling remnants of the former African-American school into a heritage and community center.
Appalachian Opportunity Fund Executive Chairman Adam Dickson told Vance the neighborhood around Langston makes a good fit for the grant.
“Working with community leaders around the Langston High School renovation project in Johnson City, we’ve learned how important it is to make sure all voices are heard,” Dickson told Vance. “We hope to take our experiences with the school project, apply them to this effort to gain trust and buy-in, and repeat that across neighborhoods throughout the Tri-Cities.”
That’s exactly the mindset necessary to find the stakeholders and make urban renewal successful. Our hats are off to all involved.
ACFCU and the Appalachian Opportunity Fund are seeking additional partners and grants to acquire labor and materials at or below cost. For anyone wanting more information about the program, call Dickson at 423-676-5547.