Renovating one house at a time, is how Pastor Arric Wilkerson spreads positivity in his neighborhood.
For more than a decade, Wilkerson, pastor of ‘Up From The World Ministries’, has been renovating houses in his Detroit neighborhood after noticing the deterioration of buildings surrounding his church.
Wilkerson told the Detroit news: “Driving through this community on a daily basis, we saw these homes that were abandoned and some of them were empty and some of them had squatters in them, so we started renovating them one at a time.”
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His church bought and renovated nearly 25 homes at $25,000 for each and 15 vacant lots. After confirming that some of his church members were interested in moving to the community, he decided to set the rent at $500. This helped cut down rent by half.
Over the past years due to neglect, most houses had been gutted, with kitchens and bathroom fixtures, furnaces and hot water tanks removed. Most of the houses needed new doors, windows, vinyl siding and porches. But the structures were solid, though, Wilkerson said.
The pastor saw potential in houses that were in bad shape and gutted. He bought homes from the city or private owners, with bad home structures priced as low as $500 and lots $100.
He said: “When you look at a house like that, you go in the basement and look at the foundation, if the foundation is good, then you can restore the house.”
He added the project is financially manageable because the home is paid for and the congregation also raise money to renovate the houses. No government financial incentives are involved.
“The rental payment is only $500 per month and our members are afforded an opportunity to live in a fully renovated home at a minimum cost, which is a great thing for their overall household finances. They also get the benefit of getting to know all of their neighbors, which creates a wonderful living environment, free of gang-banging and drug dealing,” he said in an interview with Rolling Out.
“It really wasn’t about making money. It was about restoring this community” said Wilkerson. Residents, both new and old are happy with the development of their growing neighborhood.
Daija Harris and her husband moved their four children into one of the renovated homes in October. Her home, like others owned by the church, has a small placard that reads: “Bringing the Neighbor Back to the Hood”.
“I love it because everything is family oriented,” Daija Harris told The Detroit News. Her mother has lived in another house on the street for five years.“We love it,” Harris added. “We’ve got so much space. Everything is just perfect, to be honest. It’s more than you could ask for.”
“It has turned around 100 percent,” said longtime resident Barbara Newkirk. City officials also acknowledged Wilkerson and UFTWM for their work.
“The fact that he keeps the rent at 500, means this is not about making money,” said Rod Liggons, an official at the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). “It’s about making progress in the neighborhood where he worships and where he leads his congregation.”
“It’s transformed the neighborhood, this is a very large footprint and this is how we get the neighborhoods transformed,”said Karla Marshall, who manages the department economic development and community partners at DLBA. The church is down to its last three houses and Wilkerson hopes to erect a park in summer 2021.
Wilkerson concluded: “When we drive through, we’re not looking at the chaos like we were before”. Agreeing with him, it did turnout to be a worthwhile venture.