A little more than two years ago, The Fuller Center for Housing came up with a program called Save a House/Make a Home. It was a response to the foreclosure crisis that had left millions of homes sitting vacant. The glut of vacant homes — especially those some considered to be toxic assets — dragged down home prices and served as magnets for drugs and crime in neighborhoods.
What Save a House/Make a Home does is help take donated vacant properties and refurbish them into great condition, filling them with good families. This not only gives the family a hand up to a brighter future, but it also reverses blight in neighborhoods and turns properties once considered liabilities into assets of which people are proud.
The Save a House movement has its origins in Louisville because of local covenant partner leadership that is well-connected in the real estate business and because the city has a tremendous amount of vacant and boarded-up houses — about 7,000 at last count.
The six houses Fuller Center volunteers are working on this week are being repaired under the Save a House/Make a Home initiative. Today, after the fourth day of the 2014 Legacy Build, we talked with Fuller Center President David Snell about Louisville, about how this year’s build has progressed with just one day to go and what was up with the Blue Angels flying overhead all day.
We’re four days into the build, so how would you say it’s going so far?
I’d say it’s one of the best builds we’ve had. Out of the six houses, five of them are all but finished. One of them won’t be, but we knew that before we started. But they’ve done a lot of good work, and we’re gonna leave this place better than we found it.
Louisville has been a leader for Save a House/Make a Home. Seeing this project unfold, does it make even more sense why it’s successful here and why it’s so needed here?
Yes. Louisville’s managed to get some 60-something houses donated by banks. These are foreclosed properties, and most of them are distressed. Some of them, they’re able to turn around and use the capital to fund other projects. But the ones we’re working on are houses that are about the size we build normally. We’re able to go in and for $30,000 or $40,000 fix these houses up. If we were to build them new, they’d be $60,000 or $70,000. And Louisville has led the way. They’ve done more of this than anybody in the country, and they have shown us how to make it work.
These houses have pretty good bones, right?
Most of the houses look pretty good from the street. All of them needed a fair amount of work inside. They deteriorated over time, and some had been vandalized. There were some structural issues that we’ve had to address. All the kitchens had to be redone.
Do you feel like this Legacy Build has planted more seeds to flourish here in the West End of Louisville?
Yes. This West End of Louisville is definitely an area that needs a little bit of help. Most of the work that they did here early on was in one area, Boston Court. What we’ve done is we’ve reached outside of Boston Court and planted houses on street after street. I think the effect of that is going to be to expand the ministry well beyond just Boston Court. It will be interesting to see after planting these seeds what kind of improvement these neighborhoods make over time.
What do you want these volunteers to take away from this week?
I want them to take a couple things away from this week. One, I want them to have a keen appreciation of how blessed they are and how great the need is for the kind of work that we’re doing. But I want them to know that they’ve given and they’ve contributed. These folks come and pay their own way, stay on their own dime, and they’ve given a week of their lives. Given time is the one thing you can’t recover. I want them to feel like they are being blessed for that. And I think they are.
It was nice of you to bring in the Blue Angels to fly overhead while everyone worked today.
Well, the next two weeks are big weeks here in Louisville with the huge Thunder Over Louisville fireworks display coming Saturday and next week being the mayor’s Give a Day Week of Service. And during the mayor’s week of giving, they’ll be continuing some of the work that we’ve started. The mayor is working hard to get the people of Louisville out to fix up their neighborhoods, do volunteer work and make the town a little better place. So we’re kind of foreshadowing what will be happening citywide next week. We’re not the only excitement in town, so I guess it’s part of all the festivities.
Wait. Are you saying you didn’t bring the Blue Angels in yourself?
I thought about it. I actually called to see if we could get them and was turned down. But, son of a gun, somebody here in Louisville was able to pull them through.