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Topic: Smith Village debacle

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El Supremo

'Broken dreams:' Flint families frustrated by Smith Village delays
Print Email Kristin Longley | klongley1@mlive.com By Kristin Longley | klongley1@mlive.com

on September 15, 2012 at 9:00 AM
Ryan Garza | MLive.com
Alice Evans is frustrated by all the delays at Smith Village. Her house has been packed up since December, when they were told they would be able to move in to the new development. They say they haven't been able to get any answers from the city.
FLINT, MI -- Alice Evans' dream of home ownership is still just that -- a dream.
Nearly a year ago, she packed up most of her belongings in anticipation of moving to her brand-new home in the city's new Smith Village housing development, but today she's still living out of boxes in her mother's home on the city's north side.

Fourteen years after the Smith Village project started, it's still not close to being finished.

"It's so frustrating," Evans said. "All we want is our dream. A dream was promised and it keeps moving further and further away."

Smith Village was started in 1998 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but it was never completed, despite various attempts over the years to bring it back to life.

In 2010, under threat of a penalty from the federal government, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling's administration restarted the project and pledged to make it happen using federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant funds.

As it stands, the project is still underway, but it's on its third developer and lawsuits from the first two developers against the city are pending in Genesee County Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, Evans is still waiting to move into the home she was assigned after she was pre-approved for a mortgage.

Instead of a lawn, there's a stretch of dirt and brush around the picturesque home.

Instead of a backyard deck -- where she imagined sitting and relaxing with her mother on nice days -- there's only tall weeds and a 3-foot drop underneath the sliding patio door.

"I've been in my home," said Evans. "I walked through it twice. I was so excited. Now I'm just sad."

At least 83 homes were supposed to be built at Smith Village by February 2013, but only 25 are there now. Because of the project's slow progress, city leaders say only 39 homes -- fewer than half of the original target -- will be on the site in March.

The change was necessary in order to meet a deadline for spending the city's allocation of federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant funds.

Some funding that had been intended for Smith Village will now be spent on demolishing vacant structures throughout the city, emergency financial manager Ed Kurtz said.

"If we didn't do it, we would have lost that (funding)," Kurtz said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the city still must build 83 homes, even if all of them can't be completed by February.

Tracy Atkinson, director of the city's community and economic development department, said the balance of the homes will have to be built with the proceeds from the first homes or another source of funding.

"It depends on what they sell for," she said, adding that the completed homes have been appraised at $60,000 to $65,000.

Atkinson said the new developer, Ginosko Development Co., can begin work at the site as soon as the city is able to get the deeds to the homes from the previous developer, Smith Village Construction Services.

Attempts to reach Smith Village Construction and their attorney were not successful Friday.

Amin Irving, president of Ginosko, said his team is "very well prepared to act when we can."

"We have done the necessary due diligence and are prepared to have boots on the ground once certain aspects of the transaction are completed," he said. "We're very close."

Brown's office said in May that the city switched developers because of project delays.

At the time, city officials said the previous developer should have had the homes completed, while the developers said they couldn't complete the homes because the city hadn't completed the streets and other infrastructure work.

Prospective home buyers said they just want the finger-pointing to stop, and the work to start up again.

Robbie Grier told Flint City Council members recently that she also has been through the house that is supposed to be hers.

"It's a sad situation," she said. "I don't know if the appliances are still there, or if the basement flooded."

Flint City Councilman Bernard Lawler, who represents the 5th Ward where Smith Village is located, said he, too, is hoping city leaders are right when they say work will begin again soon at the site.

"I'm waiting to see what happens," he said. "The prospective and current homebuyers didn't deserve this neglect that has happened with this project. I'm going to be following up with them and making sure things progress as they're supposed to."
Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:04 am 
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El Supremo

Smith Village meets deadline on first phase of construction
Print Email Kristin Longley | klongley1@mlive.com By Kristin Longley | klongley1@mlive.com

on December 22, 2011 at 10:10 PM
View full sizeRyan Garza | The Flint Journal
Workers continue building houses at the corner of Williams Street and Root Street in Flint on Dec. 12 as part of the Smith Village development.
FLINT, Michigan It took nearly 14 years and several threats of penalties from the federal government, but the first phase of the once-stalled Smith Village housing project is now complete, officials said.

Twenty-five homes now stand on the development site just north of downtown Flint off the citys main thoroughfare, said Lela McGee-Johnson, spokeswoman for developer Smith Village Construction Services.

Were excited, McGee-Johnson said this week. Were so proud of the effort from everyone.

The city and developer had been under the gun to build the 25 houses by a Dec. 31 federal deadline.

The Smith Village project was initially supposed to be completed in 2002 but stalled after just six houses were built.

The city restarted the $16 million project with stimulus funds in 2010 after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development demanded repayment of $1,086,935 in grant funding that was supposed to be used to build low-income housing for Smith Village, but wasnt.

HUD lifted that threat under several conditions in September, saying the city was making good progress, and the first phase was recently completed, officials said.

Work is already underway on more houses in the development.

The neighborhood is being transformed, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said. You can drive by and see the work being done on site to get the houses completed for their new owners.

McGee-Johnson said 15 of the houses have been sold and another four sales are pending. The first homeowner is expected to move in Feb. 1, she said.

Now, the developer is looking toward the second phase of the project, McGee-Johnson said. The lots for the balance of the 83 houses have been selected and construction is planned to resume in April, depending on the weather, she said.

The developer will continue to market and sell the houses through the winter, she said, and an open house is planned for Jan. 15.

We want the public to come in and browse, she said.

Portions of the homes were manufactured off-site and the houses were assembled on-site, developer Charles Young has said.

The basements, garages, porches, siding and brick work and other work was to be done by local contractors, he said.

The development was the only new subdivision started this year in Genesee County, mirroring a nationwide trend. A Dec. 19 report from Bloomberg News showed construction of single-family home builds is heading for its worst year on record.

Still, despite excess housing in the area, Walling said Smith Village is needed, and provides the Flint housing market with high-quality, low-maintenance homes.

The Flint housing market has to offer a wide variety of options to prospective buyers, he said.

McGee-Johnson said a third of of the $16,185,000 in federal grant funding for the project has been spent so far and the rest must be spent by December 2012.

At least $14 million was earmarked for construction. The rest includes about $540,000 for professional services, such as legal and real estate sales, and a $900,000 developer fee.

Doug Weiland, executive director of the Genesee County Land Bank, said the project is a sign that the neighborhood just north of downtown is starting to turn around.

People are seeing rooftops go into a new development, he said. Its been a 12-year period since that was promised and there were a lot of people counting on it happening and now theyre seeing it come to fruition.
Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:06 am 
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El Supremo

Cost to protect unsold homes in Flint's Smith Village project could double
Print Email Ron Fonger | rfonger1@mlive.com By Ron Fonger | rfonger1@mlive.com
on November 20, 2015 at 5:00 AM, updated November 20, 2015 at 5:05 AM
A monument marks the location of Flint's Smith Village project.
Ron Fonger | The Flint Journal

FLINT, MI -- The city says it expects within four months to complete the sale of most, if not all of the remaining homes it owns in Smith Village, a subsidized subdivision project just north of downtown Flint.

But until those sales are completed, the Flint City Council is being asked to spend nearly $90,000 to keep private security officers on patrol in the area to prevent theft and vandalism at 14 unoccupied homes.

The council postponed a vote on that use of Community Development Block Grant funds on Wednesday, Nov. 18, until its meeting Monday, Nov. 23.

Bordered by Williams Street on the south, Wood Street on the north, Saginaw Street on the east and Martin Luther King Boulevard on the west, Smith Village has suffered various setbacks and problems since ground was broken more than 15 years ago.

Of 39 homes that have been built, 25 have sold, 11 have purchase agreements in place and three remain for sale, according to city spokesman Jason Lorenz.

Over the years, the project was scaled back from original plans and the city clashed with developers.

"We need to get these houses sold, and we need to be able to protect that investment" until they are, City Administrator Natasha Henderson told the council Wednesday.

Councilman Scott Kincaid suggested the same security patrols could be done by part-time city police officers who would be more effective at preventing crime in the neighborhood.

Henderson said federal regulations might prohibit spending CDBG funds on city police.

Smith Village homes were all deeded to the city 11 months ago. It's a government project started in 1988 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Although purchase agreements for 11 of the unsold 14 homes are pending, the city has been unable to close on those sales as prospective buyers have waited -- some for about a year -- for final repairs to be completed or stolen items replaced, according to Doug Weiland, executive director of the Genesee County Land Bank.

Real estate agents working with the Land Bank have marketed the Smith Village homes, which are advertised for sale starting at $45,000.

A staff review sent to the council says the city expected to have repaired the homes to complete pending sales but "there was a delay in the availability of ... funds," causing the delays in sales.

Henderson urged the council to approve $89,653 to extend security patrols by Hi-Tech Protection.

Such a decision would increase the Hi-Tech contract to a total of $181,688 since it began in April, city records show.

Councilman Wantwaz Davis, who represents the area in the city's 5th Ward, said Flint must protect its investment in Smith Village.

Councilwoman Vicki VanBuren said Smith Village isn't the only area of the city that could use additional policing.

"What about the rest of the city?" VanBuren asked. "I would love to have additional security in my neighborhood."
Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:08 am 
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El Supremo

Smith Village woes: Flint switches developers again amid project delays
Print Email Kristin Longley | klongley1@mlive.com By Kristin Longley | klongley1@mlive.com
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on May 21, 2012 at 6:00 PM, updated May 21, 2012 at 6:02 PM
smith village press conference.JPG
View full sizeKristin Longley | MLive.com
The Rev. Jacob Hawkins, a Smith Village resident, speaks at a press conference to highlight construction delays that have prevented some prospective Smith Village homeowners from moving into the development.
FLINT, MI -- Flint emergency manager Michael Brown's office is changing developers on the troubled Smith Village housing project as construction delays keep prospective residents out of their newly built homes.
It's the second time the city has switched Smith Village developers since the project was restarted in 2010. A lawsuit as a result of the first change, which occurred under Flint Mayor Dayne Walling's administration, is pending in Genesee County Circuit Court.

Brown's office says project delays are the primary reason for the latest switch, although prospective residents and a city council member say the current developer was on track and the city is at fault for the hold-ups.

"We needed to get that project completed," said Tracy Atkinson, Brown's appointed director of the city's community and economic development department. "It had basically been stalled for several different reasons since December. We need to have somebody who could get a project done."

Charles Young of Smith Village Construction Services, the current developer, declined to comment Monday, on advice from his attorney, he said. Company spokeswoman Lela McGee-Johnson said they would hold a press conference at 1 p.m. Tuesday to release a statement about the situation.

A message seeking comment was also left for Bret Russell, who is listed with the state of Michigan as the principal agent for Smith Village Construction.

The new developer is Ginosko Development Co. of Milford and the new general contractor is Rohde Construction Co. of Kentwood, according to Brown's office. City officials said they could not immediately respond to The Flint Journal's request for the bid proposals from the companies.

Brown's office says Ginosko will help the city meet its federal requirement of building 83 homes, at least half of them for low- to moderate-income families.

The company has a history of hiring 40 percent local, low-income workers in their workforce, which is more than required by the federal government's U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Brown's office said in a news release. He said the developer is properly bonded and licensed.

"Ginosko Development Co. has completed multi-million dollar, single- and multi-family
residential projects successfully in the past," the statement says.

But Flint City Councilman Bernard Lawler, who represents the 5th Ward where Smith Village is located, was unhappy about the developer switch, especially since the companies are not locally based. Lawler also said he was never informed of the change before it was announced.

"He (Brown) declares there will be transparency and inclusion," Lawler said. "Where is the transparency?"

Lawler made his comments at a news conference he called to highlight the construction delays that have kept several families out of their newly built Smith Village homes.

At least 25 houses stand on the development site, but can't be occupied because roads aren't paved, sewers aren't connected and other work such as landscaping, driveways and patios isn't completed.

Lawler said the roads and sewers are the main issues, and the city is responsible.

Atkinson admitted that the city should have had funding in place for the roads and sewers, but said that's still no excuse for the developer not finishing the houses that are at the development.

"They could still go in and finish the homes," she said.

Atkinson said the new developer will be responsible for finishing this first phase of homes, as well as the balance of the 83-unit development.

The Smith Village project started 14 years ago, but stalled over the course of several administrations and was never finished, despite funding granted by the federal housing department.

The project was restarted in 2010 under threat of penalty from the federal government, and the city was required to pledge its available resources to complete the development or risk having to repay $1.1 million.

Prospective homeowner Robbie Grier said she just wants the city to come to a resolution so people can move into their homes.

As a music teacher, Grier said her personal life and professional life have been interrupted by the delay. Half of her belongings are packed in boxes waiting to be moved, and her landlord has "graciously" allowed her to live in her apartment on a month-to-month lease, she said.

Grier worries that the delay will cause her to lose her financing or affect her credit.

"Are we going to lose on that end?" she said. "Our financial future is in limbo."

Grier said she's going to wait out these most recent developments, but that doesn't mean she won't be an activist. She said she believes Young has been a good developer from what she's seen.

"Nobody's perfect," she said. "But I do believe Charles has done all they can do from what I know."

Last edited by untanglingwebs on Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:14 am; edited 1 time in total
Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:12 am 
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El Supremo

we are now 8 years into construction and still haven't sold all of the homes and te high crime rate continues.
Flint Talk Forums View topic - HAS SMITH VILLAGE STALLED AGAIN?
flinttalk.com Political Talk
Sep 1, 2011 - Remember the news story where Smith Village was changing developers and Charles Young and some newly formed companies were working diligently to build these homes in Smith Village. Well after hearing rumors from all sides of the city that construction had stalled because the construction crews ...
Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:13 am 
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