Groundbreaking Marks Milestone in Efforts to Rehab Neighborhood

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- A rebirth in an older Cedar Rapids neighborhood took a symbolic first step Tuesday afternoon with a groundbreaking for a new home. But that's significant in the Wellington Heights neighborhood because in the 18-block "core" area it's considered the first new residential construction in 50 years.

The Affordable Housing Network, a part of Four Oaks, outlined development plans six weeks ago by introducing homeowners Josh and Alyssa Hulme. The Hulmes are the first to own one of the planned homes, but they won't be the last. The Affordable Housing Network has five vacant lots for new home construction in Wellington Heights. And with a contract signing set for Friday, three of the five lots have owners wanting to build. In addition to new construction, the housing network is rehabbing other homes in the area and 10 to 15 either new or rehabilitated single family homes should be available to buyers by the end of summer.

During the Tuesday groundbreaking event, the Hulmes said they didn't consider themselves pioneers in being first to sign up for a new home. They already rent a home in Wellington Heights about two blocks away and are very familiar with the area.

But speakers during the event said it was a significant and symbolic day nonetheless. That's because it may be a clear sign to other potential owners that a rebound in that neighborhood is beginning.

"There's been a lot of decay of homes in this neighborhood, so to have some new ones come up is kind of like a rebirth if you will," Josh Hulme said.

The new homes planned for the core area of Wellington Heights will have a value of about $150,000. But owners like the Hulmes will only have to pay between $85,000 and $90,000. Subsidies from lenders and city and state housing programs are providing instant equity for those who meet the income qualifications. While the groundbreaking took place on Tuesday, the actual work probably won't start for about two weeks. It's expected to take about three months to finish the first new home in the core part of Wellington Heights.
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