New homes to be built in blighted Westside neighborhood

A sketch of the two houses planned for the vacant Hill Street land next to Freewill Missionary Baptist Church
A sketch of the two houses planned for the vacant Hill Street land next to Freewill Missionary Baptist Church

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It's not everyday a private developer chooses to invest in blighted areas like Washington Park .

"Now the partnerships are there," says Reverend Ed Nettles.

But because Nettles, the pastor of Freewill Missionary Baptist Church never gave up on his vision to revitalize the area around his church--two new homes will soon sit on some vacant property just down the street.

"After 20 years we're still just excited as we were in the first year," says Nettles.

Nettles' church purchased the Hill Street land years ago but never found a suitable developer.

It wasn't until Nettles teamed up with Dr. Randy Brinson from the Christian Coalition of Alabama that the pieces started falling into place.

"It's through Randy that we met Foshee," says Nettles.

Foshee Design and Construction is a division of one of Montgomery's largest realty and housing companies.

Dr. Brinson asked them to build a low cost, energy efficient home for low income residents.

"Not only will they own a home, but they'll be paying less than they would be paying for rent on a home that may be substantially not as nice as what we're talking about building here," says Brinson.

"I am umpteen years old and I never had a new house," says Daisy Lawrence.

She and her husband, Charles, plan to purchase one of the homes.

She already has plans for the space.

"We're gonna have us a garden back there. The garden's gonna have vegetables and stuff."

Dr. Brinson and Reverend Nettles expect the first home to be built by November--just in time for the owners to celebrate Thanksgiving.

"To be thankful for the new homes that are going up," says Nettles.

The City of Montgomery created a similar Westside housing concept a few years ago called Lanier Place--with affordable, low income homes built with the help of federal dollars.

While both houses at the Hill Street property are already spoken for, Montgomery leaders admit only one of three homes in Lanier Place have sold.

They say because federal dollars have stipulations private dollars don't, fewer people are able to qualify for homes there.

Leaders hope to build another section of homes with lease to purchase plans instead.  This would make it easier for residents to own them.

Leaders hope once they sell the first two Hill Street homes, the money generated there can go to build more in the same area.

They plan to break ground September 20th.

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