Organization hopes to provide affordable homes for families

Community Action in Janesville works to encourage development in neighborhood
Organization hopes to provide affordable homes for families

A Janesville not-for-profit organization hopes that building a new house in the city’s oldest neighborhood will bring a renewed sense of ownership to its residents.

“The house is a structure, but the real character and power of an area is the neighbors,” said John Ramstad, director of Community Programs at Community Action.

It’s all in an effort to provide affordable housing and encourage more development in the neighborhood.

“If you look where the bulk of the wealth of what families have, it comes from the homeownership and the long-term appreciation of those houses, and so the more people that can share in that the hope is they would have some level of financial base in which the family can live over the long term,” he said.

Ramstad is hoping to build a two-story home in Janesville located on the corner of Linn and McKinley streets. It’s the same location the city previously removed two homes from in the past to reduce blight in the area. Community members are hopeful the potential new development will start a chain reaction.

“What we have seen over the past three years is that homes have changed. One homeowner will actually repair and upgrade the outside of their home, and two more homeowners around them will do the same thing,” Neighborhood Committee spokesperson Teresa Mckeown said.

Community Action has renovated 20 vacant homes in Beloit’s Merrill community with the same goal in mind. Each home is designed to be energy efficient to reduce costs in the long run.

“This gives another opportunity for a good family to own their home, raise their family and continue their heritage in their family,” Mckeown said.

The city of Janesville currently owns 11 vacant lots, eight of them in the Fourth Ward. Ramstad said with so much opportunity, this is just the beginning.

“Putting one house in one place is good, but it really isn’t the impact that the city wants or what we want. This is a starting point for us, and if we can continue to arrange funding, we will continue to work with the neighbors in this area,” Ramstad said.

Ramstad’s proposal will have to be approved by the city’s Historic Commission before it goes to council. He hopes the city will donate the lot or sell it at a reduced rate.

The home is expected to cost around $190,000 to build. The project will be paid for through federal subsidized money through a program to create affordable low-income housing. Community Action expects to be able to sell the home for as little as $110,000.

Ramstad said the city and Community Action are working to put in place an agreement that would prevent buyers from immediately reselling or turning the homes into rental properties.