3 New Jersey families get keys to 1st homes thanks to new program

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Three families received the keys to their first homes in Newark Tuesday as part of the city's newly operational "Section 8 Homeownership Conversion Program."

Mayor Ras Baraka joined Invest Newark, Newark's Economic Development Corporation, and other dignitaries to host a ribbon cutting event where they handed over the keys of subsidized redeveloped properties to the three families.

"I'd like to thank everyone that was involved in making me and my kids' dream come true," new homeowner Charlene Spann said while wiping away tears. "Now they have somewhere they can call theirs, all theirs, that belongs to them. And without my kids, I would not have made it through. They gave me the energy and the drive to keep pushing."

The partnership of public and private sector stakeholders is part of Mayor Baraka's strategy to increase homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families.

It uses properties transferred to the Newark Land Bank from the City of Newark's Department of Economic and Housing Development to enable first time homebuyers and create access to capital and more equitable opportunities for contractors across Newark.

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"Increasing homeownership for Newark residents, regardless of income level, is one of the important reasons why we created the Land Bank and the Live Newark Closing Cost Program," Baraka said. "Through this partnership of the city, Invest Newark and the Newark Housing Authority, numerous residents will enjoy the independence and empowerment of achieving the American Dream of home ownership. At the same time, it achieves other goals of the Land Bank: transforming blighted properties, restoring our city's economic strength, and reviving neighborhoods."

The three initial properties that have been completed in the program are move-in ready for the families, who were selected through a lottery.

The Section 8 Homeownership Conversion Program allows qualified Section 8 recipients to use their rental vouchers and down payment assistance to purchase single-family homes.

Currently, blighted homes are costing the city millions of dollars each year. For three existing homes from the Land Bank, Invest Newark has provided funds for the complete development costs, a total of $550,000.

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It not only provides value for the new homeowner with over $40,000 in equity, but also creates 50 construction jobs for the community.

The program also focuses on investing in existing neighborhoods, utilizing local minority and/or women-owned business enterprises contractors and building the wealth of Newark residents.

The collaboration has led Invest Newark to cultivate a database of local General Contractors and/or Developers to be utilized for future projects to create more local employment, help stimulate the local economy and build a more diverse pool of developers for future projects.

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