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Community Renewal

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The Low Income Public Housing Project operated by the Salem Housing Authority seems to be off to a great start. The program started about a year ago with the approval of a $500,000 revolving fund pulled from housing authority funds accumulated over time and is used to flip houses, which essentially means that any money made from selling, leasing or renting the properties would return to the fund.

The first property cost about $30,000 to purchase and approximately another $35,000 to hire Gray Construction LLC to renovate. The property recently sold for $73,485.45.

Renovations on the first house started back in June of 2020 and were mostly cosmetic, because the foundation and frame were still in good condition. The renovations may have been mostly cosmetic, but almost the entire house had to be redone.

Salem Housing Authority Modernization Director Dan Goodwin described what he called their two main goals; to improve housing stock in the community and provide housing for people with low-income.

"Our main mission as an agency is to help people with low-income," said Goodwin.

The housing authority has more houses in the works.

"This one we actually bought on the courthouse steps, it was a foreclosure,” Goodwin said of the second house.

Renovation of the second property has already completed. According to Executive Director Melissa “Missy” Mahurin, the second house will be on the market soon. Goodwin is optimistic about their pace.

"We're shooting to do four properties in the first year of the program, which is really looking doable." he said.

Renovation of the third property is already in swing. Interestingly enough this property is located right next door to the first and was purchased from the same woman, 88-year-old Geneva Putman, who also lives next door to the third house.

Putman spoke highly of the renovation program.

“The way they’re going at it, I think it’s great,” she said. “My son told me I needed to get rid of those houses anyway.”

Putman, who has been a widow for many years, said that in recent years the houses had become more of a hassle than anything.

“I used to do all sorts of work,” said Putman, describing a history of maintaining these houses through hard work. “Up until a couple years ago, I used to still get down and paint on the floor. But now if I were to fall it would cost me about as much as a house in doctor’s bills.”

Putman said that she’s been supportive of the project. When contractors were scouting where to run a new gas line, between her house and the one they were renovating, she said, “There was a bush out there, I told them they ought a line through there. They asked me if I cared about that bush. I said, no, cut it down.”

Being supportive hasn’t stopped her from teasing the men working on renovating the house. One day they removed an old flue from the house.

“I hollered at the guy that took the flue out,” said Putman. “How’s Santy Claus gonna get in?”

Mahurin said that she’s happy that people in the community are beginning to see what their program is all about. “It gets peoples’ attention in a positive way,” she said.

According to both Goodwin and Mahurin, one of the biggest hopes of this project is to improve the community as a whole, not just by turning rundown houses into affordable like-new-homes, but also to inspire people in Salem to better their neighborhoods as a whole.

The initial February 2020 proposal for this project states one of the clear goals of the program "that would pull the community up by its bootstraps and could, within a matter of a few years, achieve a noticeable reduction in the number of such properties within the community, and thereby make Salem more attractive to new businesses, tourists and the city’s residents.”

Economic Development Director Sally Burbridge said, “They’re definitely helping to fulfill a need in our community. They’ve been really great partners.”

The program has been designed to, by use of the revolving fund, be able to be self-sustaining.

"We may not turn a profit on every property, but the idea is that others will turn a profit," said Goodwin.

The revolving fund would then be able to be continually filled with money made from the projects in order to fund future housing projects.

“I’m very excited to see what we can do for the community, partnering with the Salem Housing Authority and other entities,” said Burbridge.

By: Caleb Brubaker - The Salem News

For information contact Dan Goodwin via email at d.goodwin@salemha.com or Melissa “Missy” Mahurin at m.mahurin@salemha.com or call the Salem Housing Authority at (573) 729-6453.