North Riverside CDC Partners with GWJax on Home Repair Program
Most homes in Jacksonville’s urban core neighborhoods were not built to withstand the impacts of climate change. Worse, when events like hurricane Irma cause damage, residents who are already financially stretched have few resources to pay for repairs, leaving them vulnerable to both climate and potential displacement.
Such is the case in the North Riverside community along McCoys Creek. To address this issue, the North Riverside CDC, in partnership with Groundwork Jacksonville and LISC Jacksonville, has developed a home repair and improvement program for residents of North Riverside, Mixon Town and Lackawanna. The goal is to increase climate resilience and prevent displacement while also improving home values and the safety, comfort and quality of life for residents.
“This initiative will provide far-reaching benefits to North Riverside and help to protect residents of this economically and environmentally vulnerable neighborhood from the threats of climate and displacement,” said Kay Ehas, CEO of Groundwork Jacksonville. “As we continue our work to restore McCoys Creek and build the Emerald Trail in partnership with the City of Jacksonville, Groundwork is committed to helping long-time residents remain in their homes and begin to build generational wealth for their families.”
To start, the home repair program will benefit residents in 46 owner-occupied homes in Mixon Town and Lackawanna. An estimated $5,000 – $20,000 will be invested into each home to install cool roofs; repair or replace walls, windows and doors, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems; remediate mold; and beautify home exteriors and landscape. The funding also will help to convert two vacant public lots into community parks with both stormwater infrastructure to reduce flooding and shade trees to reduce heat.
The home repair program is being funded by a grant from by Groundwork USA through the Climate Preparedness and Land Restoration Initiative, made possible with funding from the Bezos Earth Fund, in addition to grants from LISC Jacksonville and the Edna Sproull Williams Foundation. It is being matched by a $600,000 grant from United Way of Northeast Florida as part of a historic $20 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
“The residents of North Riverside are so excited about this program and appreciative to everyone who is making it possible,” said second-generation North Riverside resident Padrica Mendez, who serves as secretary of the North Riverside CDC and chair of its housing committee. “We love our neighborhood, and the home repair program will help to ensure we can stay here and continue to build a stronger community.”
How the Program Works
The North Riverside home repair program is managed by a resident-led construction committee that employs a case manager to identify eligible properties, and a construction manager to oversee each project. A representative from LISC Jacksonville chairs the committee and Groundwork Jacksonville is the fiscal sponsor responsible for payment of all approved invoices.
The program is available to low to moderate income homeowners living in the Mixon Town or Lackawanna neighborhoods of North Riverside, bordered by Beaver Street to the North, I-10 to the South, I-95 to the East and Thompson Street to the West. Priority is given to veterans, disabled, seniors, and/or families who have children under 18.
To be eligible, the home must be the full-time residence and the homeowner must prove clear title to the property and that all property taxes are up to date.
How the Home Repair Program Began
McCoys Creek has posed a flooding problem for roads, homes and businesses in the North Riverside neighborhood for decades. As the City of Jacksonville made plans to address the flooding, Groundwork Jacksonville asked the City to consider an environmentally friendly, natural creek restoration design and raised private dollars to fund the conceptual design which was later adopted by the city.
In 2018, Groundwork and the City began working with the design team at WSP (formerly Wood) and meeting with residents to gain input into the project. Community meetings, focus groups, listening sessions and a community-wide Creek Festival gave residents the opportunity to provide real-time input into the creek restoration design.
Groundwork Jacksonville’s Manager of Community Engagement and Equity, Gloria McNair says that as Groundwork continued to engage with residents, it became clear that while they were pleased to see the flooding issue being addressed, residents were concerned about the potential impact of gentrification as the neighborhood became more attractive for investment.
As a result, Gloria and her team worked with the North Riverside CDC and other residents to develop a 10-year vision for the neighborhood. The vision evolved into a community-led Equity Development Action Plan with resident-led committees working on four focus areas:
- Economic opportunity
- Environmental stewardship
- History & culture
While long-term, systemic change is necessary to achieve the residents’ vision, it was agreed that due to legitimate concerns about displacement, housing would be the priority. The home repair program is a way to begin making an immediate and significant impact in the neighborhood, while continuing to address bigger housing, economic, cultural, and environmental priorities.