Angela, a Garden City resident, loves to cook for her grandchildren every week. In her 40-plus-year-old kitchen, she whips up decadent meals of gumbo, macaroni, butter beans and blueberry muffins, so that the kids are well-fed every Sunday afternoon.
“By 12:30 p.m. everything is set and good,” she said.
By then, Angela has been awake for hours, prepping and cooking. The electrical wiring within her home is in disrepair and shorts out often, so she has to walk back and forth between the oven and the breaker box to switch the power back on. For holiday meals, she starts cooking days in advance to make up for time spent resetting the faulty system.
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“You can hear when it kicks off with a ‘pop!’ and then everything starts beeping in the kitchen because that means the power’s off,” said Angela, who declined to use her full name due to the personal nature of her situation.
Angela has lived in Rossignol Hill, the historically Black neighborhood, all her life. The home was passed down from her father, and she’s now the sole owner of the brown-roofed one-story.
“I’ve been blessed with this house,” said Angela.
But for as long as she’s lived there, there’s been issues. Faulty electrical wiring means her living room light sometimes doesn’t turn on. The hallway bulb flickers. Her porch light doesn’t work at all. And, the plumbing system is also in need of repair. In the bedrooms, none of the closets have doors. She fixes what she can with the money she has as a disabled retiree, but the electrical and plumbing are “out of her hands.”
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A federal grant may soon change Angela’s situation for the better. In August, the Garden City Housing Team, a local nonprofit, received $400,000 through a Community Home Investment Program (CHIP) grant. The money will go towards repairing and rehabbing six homes in the Rossignol Hill neighborhood, including Angela’s.
The Garden City Housing Team is currently assessing what repairs each home needs and will likely begin the renovation process next year, said the nonprofit’s president, MonaLisa Monroe.
“We’re in motion now getting these homes inspected by the code inspector of Garden City. Many of these homes were built before 1978,” said Monroe, “We’ve got to make sure they have air conditioning, ventilation, windows weatherized and things like that.”
This is the second time the nonprofit received the CHIP grant, according to Monroe. CHIP is a federally-funded program under the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, designed to provide safe, decent and affordable housing by granting funds to city and county governments, public housing authorities and nonprofits. About $7 million in total grant funds were awarded to 15 recipients across Georgia this year.
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In addition to bringing the homes up to code, the housing team will also need to determine if some of the properties fall under historical preservation standards. Then, RFPs will go out to solicit bids from certified contractors who will make the repairs.
The Garden City Housing Team is composed of “10 people that operate like a hundred,” said Monroe. Formed in 2016, the nonprofit and its members typically help with lighter renovations such as appliance or interior repairs and landscaping. In October, the group landscaped and painted six homes in six hours. They also frequently work hand-in-hand with the Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity based in Savannah.
Eventually, Monroe said the Garden City Housing Team hopes to go beyond rehabbing and rebuilding and to start constructing homes.
“Garden city, as a whole, needs residential housing,” said Monroe, “It doesn’t make sense for Garden City to have these powerhouse industries … and to not have residential housing for these people who work at these entities.”
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Garden City officials have also pointed out this need. The city is currently under an industrial rezoning moratorium, pausing applications to rezone any more land to industrial use, while the city assesses how to increase housing stock, including affordable housing.
Meanwhile, the housing team is continuing to raise funds for future projects, as well as supplemental funds for the Rossignol Hill home renovations. Each property will get an allotment of about $66,666 out of the total $400,000. However, that money doesn’t include relocation costs that residents might need while their home is renovated.
Paying out of pocket for a temporary stay would be a significant cost for these residents, noted Monroe. The six homeowner recipients had to meet an income threshold of at or below 50% of the area median income (AMI), or about $29,200 for a one-person household.
The grant money will be prioritized towards major issues and bringing homes up to code first. Homeowners also submitted a wishlist of items they’d like repaired if there are funds left over.
Angela said she “can’t even explain” how ecstatic she is for the long-needed repairs. She plans to pass this house down to her children and grandchildren.
“This is the only thing I have to offer to my children,” said Angela, “It was passed down to me from my father and it’s going to stay within my family.”
Nancy Guan is the general assignment reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @nancyguann.