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Habitat for Humanity renovates its first affordable homes in the West End

Posted at 6:38 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 19:40:56-04

CINCINNATI — A handful of soon-to-be homeowners will be moving into the first homes to be refurbished by Habitat for Humanity Greater Cincinnati in the West End.

The homes are located on Baymiller Street between Findlay and Charlotte Streets. They were dedicated at a ceremony Friday recognizing the renovations that are being finished this week.

Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, a community development corporation that has been partnering with Habitat and The Port in the effort, owns one of the three homes in the project. Executive director Alexis Kidd acknowledged the renovations are a milestone in neighborhood leaders' vision to revitalize the area.

“Baymiller was a catalyst for change in our neighborhood,” Kidd said. “No question about it.”

Habitat said the houses were built in 1875 and had been vacant for at least a decade. The Port acquired the houses from a defunct community development organization in 2018 and then sold two of the houses to Habitat for Humanity in 2019 so the organization could intervene and renovate the houses, bringing them back to productive use. The Port sold the third house to Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses in 2021 for the same purpose.

According to Habitat, the organization has spent about 18 months restoring the historic homes. Two of the homes have already been matched with two families. One house will be occupied by Sylvester Bullucks, a restaurant worker in Over-the-Rhine. The second house will become a safe haven for Conrad and Encosma Napier and their four children. Encosma Napier said she looks forward to the additional security that owning their home will bring to her family. She is particularly concerned about finding a way to protect her kids in the event that they can no longer rely on her and her husband.

“If anything ever happens to us, they have some place to go,” Napier said. “They have something that they will have to call their own and they won’t have to worry about a landlord telling them they have to leave.”

While restoring the historic homes, Ed Lee, the president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater Cincinnati, said the organization vetted prospective, first-time buyers while educating them in financial literacy.

“We want to be part of the process to keep this community diverse and keep it as a place for everybody to have a place to live,” Lee said

Lee and his partners at The Port and Seven Hills said the rehabilitation is bringing mixed-income housing that is greatly needed throughout the West End. As a result of Habitat and Seven Hills’ intervention, Baymiller Street has market-rate and affordable single-family homes.

“West End, like many neighborhoods, needs more affordable rentals, needs more affordable homeownership home opportunities,” said Laura Brunner, president and CEO of The Port. “But it also needs market-rate rentals and market-rate homeownership opportunities so that people can stay in their neighborhood and still move up as they progress in their lives and careers.”

“That’s what we want to see in our neighborhood,” Kidd said. “There’s room for us all here and I think Baymiller speaks to that...”

Sylvester Bullucks, who lives with disabilities, said he hopes his path to homeownership will inspire other people.

"I’m kind of hoping that if people see other people like myself get to do better, they’ll want to do better themselves," Bullucks said. "I believe that if you build the community up, community will come together to take care of each other."

The incoming residents say they are still in the process of closing on these homes and are waiting for their move-in dates.

Monique John covers gentrification for WCPO 9. She is part of our Report For America donor-supported journalism program. Read more about RFA here.

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