By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham City Councilor J.T. Moore said he fell in love with Woodlawn 12 years ago while volunteering in the community’s high school.
The District 4 councilor moved into the area with the help of Woodlawn United, then known as the Woodlawn Foundation, which not only helped him find housing but showed him the “vision” for the community, he said.
On Thursday, Moore helped cut the ribbon for the first three of 16 new affordable homes coming to the Woodlawn community in Birmingham’s East Side.
“As I stand here, it’s a full circle moment for me because I’m able to see everything that was put in place, the visions, the brainstorms, the conversations, the collaborations–all of that has culminated into what we’re standing in right now,” Moore said.
Homeownership is the “foundation to strong communities,” Moore said, and the buyers of the new homes will gain access to a strong community.
“What that means to me is they’re getting a family, a family of people that will be there for them, support them, surround them, keep them covered and work alongside them to continue to push this community forward,” Moore said.
The 16 new single-family homes were made possible through a collaboration with the city of Birmingham, nonprofit Woodlawn United and GROWTH by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), which is funded by numerous banks including Regions, First Horizon and Valley Bank.
Among the few dozen in attendance with Moore were Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin; Birmingham Board of Education member Derrick Billups; City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn; and Dontrelle Young-Foster, director of the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District.
The mayor said his administration’s motto of “putting people first” means a mission of improving the quality of life for residents. “Significant investments in community” form a large part of that work, he said.
“Community is not just housing and homes. Community is people, but people are families, but our families need homes, and we want our families in the city of Birmingham, Alabama to be homeowners…,” Woodfin said.
He pointed to Woodlawn as an area where homeownership over several years is being done “one block, one street at a time, continuing to make a difference in the lives of the people that live here and in the families.”
Mashonda Taylor, executive director of Woodlawn United, said her organization is involved in a number of housing initiatives including rent-restricted townhomes, market-rate single-family developments as well as renovation projects.
All of those are intentional, she said.
“The unintended consequence of our work is gentrification with displacement, but if we make sure that we allow and give the residents the ability to maintain their homes and stay within their homes, they could truly benefit from the value of this revitalization,” Taylor said.
As a homeowner in Woodlawn, Taylor said she is “excited to see the people that will move into our community, that will transition from renting into our community to home ownership … and I’m just so honored to be a vessel and a person that can lead an organization that has a vision that is truly still clear that we will make sure the residents thrive in Woodlawn.”
The project is part of a larger commitment by GROWTH by NCRC to build 200 homes around the city, with Woodlawn and Oak Hill in Belview Heights as initial demonstrations of that plan. The Oak Hill development in Belview Heights built 27 new homes on formerly vacant or blighted land.
“The City of Birmingham’s partnership with GROWTH by NCRC has been transformative in several of our neighborhoods,” Woodfin said. “This partnership goes directly to the heart of our priority to revitalize neighborhoods, create more affordable housing options and improve the path to homeownership for residents.”