Welcoming new homeowners to city

Towanda Frazier teared up as her city council member, Will Kyles, gave her a welcome mat for her new home Friday.

Frazier, a first-time homeowner, applied for a house from Habitat for Humanity in 2008. The vacant lot the house was built on was bought by the city of Champaign with funds from its Neighborhood Stabilization Program, or NSP. The program held a dedication ceremony Friday, celebrating the construction or rehabilitation of three houses.

Many community members attended the ceremony, including city council members Kyles and Karen Foster, city manager Steve Carter and representatives from the office of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

Sheila Dodd, grants coordinator for NSP, said during the event that she was proud of the program, and she was glad the city of Champaign was able to have a direct positive impact on these families.

To prepare for owning her first home, Frazier took an 11-week program about homeownership and went through 200 hours of sweat equity. Sweat equity is an effort contribution rather than a monetary one.

“I’m just blown away,” she said. “I feel so proud of myself.”

The program — which is jointly run by the city, Habitat for Humanity and the Center for Women in Transition — is funded by $1,879,185 in grant funds from the state of Illinois.

With that money, 12 properties will be or have already been improved. Habitat for Humanity will construct two more homes to be sold to first-time home buyers. Three other homes will be transferred to the Center for Women in Transition and will be used as affordable housing for low-income families. All of this will happen before the grant runs out March 4, 2013.

Diana Zimmerman with Habitat for Humanity said the house was built almost entirely with volunteer labor.

“We have a great University chapter,” she said. “People all over the community (volunteer) — businesses, individuals and even some women’s groups.”

Frazier’s grandson also got a gift from Habitat for Humanity on Friday: chalk. Frazier said he likes to play with chalk and draw things on sidewalks and driveways, and now he has a place to draw whenever he wants.

Josie Carter, Champaign resident, bought her house with help from the program through the Center for Women in Transition. Carter said she was excited with the opportunity to have a stable place to live for her and her children.