Program leads four Newark families to homeownership

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NEWARK, NJ — Mayor Ras J. Baraka joined Newark Municipal Council members, Invest Newark President and CEO Marcus Randolph, YouthBuild Newark founder and CEO Robert Clark, and other dignitaries in a ceremony on Nov. 29 to present four Newark families with keys to their first homes at 223 Peshine Ave.

The residents became first-time homeowners under the Newark Land Bank Section 8 Homeownership Conversion Program, which is supported by a $125,000 grant from Wells Fargo, a $1.2 million construction loan from the Local Initiatives Support Corp. and a $500,000 program-related investment from the Victoria Foundation.

“Our administration has committed itself to creating pathways for more Newark residents to become homeowners, no matter their income level. Today we are welcoming more residents into their new homes, so that they can enjoy the independence and empowerment of achieving the American dream of homeownership,” Baraka said. “We thank the Invest Newark and the Land Bank team for successfully collaborating with us to make this day happen and for continuing to transform blighted properties into vibrant neighborhoods.”

“Homeownership is the first step to building sustainable wealth, and the Newark Land Bank is giving Newark residents an avenue to own a home for the first time. We welcome these residents into their brand new homes and look forward to continuing to expand this monumental program across the city of Newark,” Randolph said.

The recipients of the properties were chosen via a lottery system for a portion of the 5,365 active Section 8 voucher holders that qualify for a mortgage through Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America. Participants complete mandatory credit and post-homeownership counseling that will be conducted by the HUD-certified Urban League of Essex County.

Patricia Hobbs, a lifelong Newark resident who received the keys to her home on Nov. 29, shared that she had never thought she would own a home up until two years ago when she first heard about the Newark Land Bank Section 8 Homeownership Conversion program. From then on, she began to picture herself in a three-bedroom, two-bath home, with a driveway and a backyard. 

“I wrote it down every single day that I would be a homeowner,” she said.

Transforming blighted city-owned properties into viable community and economic development opportunities for all Newarkers is the mission of the Newark Land Bank. It began operations in March of 2021 and partners with community groups and responsible developers to strategically acquire, maintain and repurpose vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties, and efficiently return them to productive use.

The program focuses on investing in existing neighborhoods, utilizing local minority- and/or women-owned business enterprises contractors or nonprofit partners to redevelop these properties, investing in local Newark businesses.

223 Peshine Ave. was renovated by a team from the nonprofit organization YouthBuild, at which young people learn on-the-job construction skills while obtaining their GED. 

“Young people rebuilding their communities is what YouthBuild stands on and this project, and the visionary leadership of Mayor Baraka for an affordable Newark coupled with the talented execution from the Invest Newark team provides a model of a committed, capable collective,” Clark said.

Photos Courtesy of City of Newark