Google Ads help pay the expense of maintaining this site

Click Here for the Neighborhood Transformation Website

Fair Use Disclaimer

Neighborhood Transformation is a nonprofit, noncommercial website that, at times, may contain copyrighted material that have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It makes such material available in its efforts to advance the understanding of poverty and low income distressed neighborhoods in hopes of helping to find solutions for those problems. It believes that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Persons wishing to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of their own that go beyond 'fair use' must first obtain permission from the copyright owner.
4/19/05 - Miami Herald

Opening doors in Overtown
Federal government helps low-income families buy homes at a new development


The high and mighty, from Washington, D.C., and Miami City Hall, came out to welcome Ollie Tillman to her new home Monday afternoon.

She almost couldn't believe it, but the evidence stood before her: dozens of brightly colored Bahamian-style houses in Overtown.

''Finally, a promise that really was kept,'' Tillman said, her voice breaking as tears streamed down her cheek.

``Something in this community finally came to fruition.''

Alphonso Jackson, head of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., came to celebrate with Tillman and other families who are purchasing their first homes with federal assistance for down payments and closing costs.

The assistance and the new houses underscore the need for affordable housing in South Florida's increasingly hot market. Locally, both housing advocates and government officials have bemoaned the dearth of rental and market units, as demand for both steadily increases.

Martinez, who was in charge of HUD when the program was approved by President Bush in 2001, said he attended Monday's ceremony to share in the success of the new homeowners. Local leaders, including county Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, also attended.

Jackson announced that $50 million nationwide will be spent this year to help low- and moderate-income home buyers through the federal American Dream Downpayment Initiative. Miami-Dade County has received almost $200,000.

Jackson credited Martinez with pushing through the down-payment program.

''I can remember when I moved into my first home,'' he said. ''God bless you. We would not have been here today if it were not for'' Martinez.

Participants in the program were approved for help of up to $10,000 after they completed a HUD-sanctioned home buyer education program.


Their homes are located at the Villas of St. Agnes, a $16 million, 10-acre affordable housing development just north of downtown Miami, the former site of a long-abandoned public housing project.

The Villas of St. Agnes project is a public-private partnership involving the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, Bank of America and St. Agnes Rainbow Village CDC, among others.

Developers from the empowerment trust hope the project will stimulate home-ownership opportunities for residents in the surrounding area. Construction of more than 100 single-family homes and town homes is expected to be complete in December, transforming a particularly neglected section of the neighborhood. A separate wing of rental housing for elderly tenants is expected to be finished next year.

The site had been shuttered since 1993; it was a neighborhood eyesore, attracting vagrants and criminals.

County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, whose district includes Overtown, pushed the idea for new construction there.

''This is a good place to put housing for first-time owners,'' Carey Shuler said. ``These are people who want to stay and work in the community.''

The project's three- and four-bedroom single-family homes originally were priced from $95,000 to $115,000. Costs now range from $105,000 to $125,000. About 25 percent of low- to moderate-income buyers will receive some sort of subsidy toward their mortgage, down payment or closing costs.


Empowerment Trust officials say the project is sold out. Additional names are being placed on a waiting list.

For Shawna Everett, the wait is almost over. She hopes to move into her three-bedroom, 2 ½-bath home in June.

Seated under the tent Monday, Everett fidgeted with a folded sheet of paper that contained scribbled words -- notes that reflected her thoughts about her new home. ''I'm nervous,'' she explained, leery of speaking in front of the crowd.

When time came for her to speak, the paper was nowhere to be seen. Her words flowed as easily as her tears.

''This is something I've waited for a very long time,'' she said. ``This is truly an American dream for me.''