|City's My Front Yard Program Revealing Success
|June 22, 2009 - From new shutters here to a garage door there to siding and landscaping in a lot of places, the “My Front Yard” program is making some of Knoxville’s central neighborhoods more beautiful one house at a time.
It’s also doing it for free if the homeowner meets certain terms.
If your house qualifies, the City of Knoxville and its partners would like to help make the exterior of your house more beautiful too.
The city’s Community Development Department is currently accepting applications for the program, which involves forgivable home improvement loans of up to $4,999 for qualified homeowners who live in Knoxville’s Empowerment Zone. No loan payments are required if all program requirements are met.
The “My Front Yard” program is a joint effort of Community Development and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).
Before and after view of a home that used the "My Front Yard Program"
|The 16-square-mile empowerment zone covers downtown Knoxville and most of the center city area. The loans can be used to pay for a wide variety of exterior improvements including front yard landscaping, new gutters, roof repair or replacement, porch work, accessibility ramps, exterior siding, painting and lighting.
The loans can be forgiven over a five-year span, or at a rate of 20 percent a year. That means that a homeowner participating in the “My Front Yard” Program won’t have to repay any part of the loan if he or she stays in the house for five years and other program requirements are met.
“We’ve had a great response,” said James Allen, a Lonsdale resident and member of the Partnership for Neighborhood Improvement’s Board. “The impact has been outstanding, everything from landscaping to new siding and driveways. The quality of the work has been impeccable.”
Allen has gone door to door in his neighborhood to promote the program, and as a result Lonsdale has probably garnered the greatest benefit from it so far. Other neighborhoods in the Empowerment Zone include Mechanicsville, Five Points, Morningside, Fourth & Gill, Fort Sanders, Old Sevier, Cold Springs, Park City, Old North, Lincoln Park, Beaumont, Parkridge, Chilhowee Park, Vestal and part of Burlington.
Wendee Jones learned about the program from Allen.
“I added shutters, railing, some landscaping and gutter guards,” said Jones, who has owned her home for two years.
“They were all things I was planning on doing,” she said, “but it would have taken a lot longer.”
Shirley Jackson learned about “My Front Yard” from a community newspaper and, after determining that her home was in the zone, applied for the program.
The improvements to her home included a new driveway and screen door.
“I’m very happy with it. It’s beautiful, most definitely,” Jackson said of the work. “There’s no way in the world I would have accomplished what they did. I didn’t have the money to do it.”
Blenda McCrary’s home received a new driveway, new aluminum columns for the front porch and a freshly-painted soffit (the underside of an eave or cornice).
“I had been planning a driveway for a number of years but hadn’t been able to get it financed and had been planning on getting the soffit painted,” she said. “When this (My Front Yard) came along it all fell into place.”
To date the City and its partners have completed 15 “My Front Yard” makeovers and currently are involved in 20 projects. Funding is available for more.
“We’re trying to encourage more applications,” Tim Dimick, housing manager for the Community Development Department, said of the program. “This was a new program aimed at beautification and increasing a home’s curb appeal that would improve everyone’s property values in the neighborhood.”
“It’s certainly been a successful program, and where we can do a couple in a row on one street you can see the difference more so than one here or there,” he added.
If a homeowner meets the qualifications, Community Development inspects the house and then sits down with the owner to decide what improvements can be completed.
In addition to the My Front Yard improvements the City’s EZ Owner Occupied Rehab program provides low-interest loans for substantial improvements – such as heating, plumbing and electrical work – to qualified applicants.
For more information about the “My Front Yard Program” or any of the city’s housing improvement efforts, please call 865-215-2120 or go to: www.cityofknoxville.org/development.
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