Plan aims to change lives

Focus of the program is to help the tenants someday become homeowners.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Five years and $13.6 million later, the conversion from the barracks of the Kimmel Brook housing project to the townhouses of Rockford Village is complete.
But the true mission is just starting.
Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority Wednesday marked the finish of the second of two phases in transforming the East Side public housing project.
The total project turned about 300 barracks-style apartments into 149 more spacious townhouses, plus 10 single-family homes.
The first 72 of the units opened in late 2000. The 77 additional units just finished run along Victor Avenue between Atkinson and Garland avenues.
The gable-roofed units are 1,200 square feet to 1,500 square feet and have between one and four bedrooms. They have new appliances and security systems, too. Tenants pay rent equal to 30 percent of their income.
Adding to the neighborhood feel is a series of new homes outside the YMHA complex on Victor Avenue built by a government-subsidized, nonprofit agency.
Just as important as the buildings, though, is helping the tenants someday become homeowners elsewhere.
What's available
The last phase includes a $1.5 million community center where YMHA will offer tenants a wide range of services aimed at helping families.
"We want to help change [their] lives," said Eugenia C. Atkinson, YMHA executive director. "I think this is the way to go."
The center includes a full gym, a kitchen and space for job skill development, counseling, child care and after-school programs. A ball field and a playground are nearby.
Ultimately, YMHA wants Rockford Village to become a place where families with mixed incomes live and grow, Atkinson said.
Part of that is the Step-Up initiative. Tenants with moderate incomes in the 10 single-family homes put their monthly rent into escrow. That money then can be put toward a down payment on a house elsewhere in the area after five years.
Demand for single-family homes has grown in the five years since the project started, and Atkinson expects a list of people waiting to get in.
Eventually, YMHA wants to see Rockford Village tenants move on to their own homes and help other families realize the dream of homeownership, Atkinson said.

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