Work continues on the City’s Restore SGF initiative, which aims to bring residents, real estate agents, developers, banks, employers and community organizations together to encourage home ownership, invest in existing housing stock and enhance the quality of life and civic pride in Springfield’s historic neighborhoods.
The initiative officially kicked off to the community Nov. 17, 2020, with a presentation at The Fairbanks by Neighborhood Advisory Council Chair Rusty Worley and Councilman Richard Ollis. Community Foundation of the Ozarks President Brian Fogle and Rep. Bill Owen, who represents Missouri House District 131 (northern Springfield and north-central Greene County) are founding organizers of Restore SGF, along with Ollis, Worley and Brendan Griesemer, assistant director of Planning and Development for the City of Springfield. Fogle and Owen both are retired bankers.
Speakers included affordable housing developer Debbie Hart, Commerce Bank Senior Vice President Doug Neff and Greater Springfield Board of Realtors Chief Executive Officer Jeff Kester. Griesemer was on-hand at the kickoff to answer questions about the City’s existing residential grant and loan programs. A video recording of the presentation is available at restoresgf.com.
“Initial strategies for Restore SGF include providing a central resource for all residential programs, more effectively market available options, stimulate the creation of rehabilitation financing and incentives, and reduce barriers to home ownership and reinvestment,” said Worley.
Restore SGF’s pilot neighborhoods are Midtown, Woodland Heights, West Central and Grant Beach, although some of the incentives and financing options offered by the City of Springfield and other lenders are open to additional neighborhoods and those of all income levels.
The Blue House Project
The Blue House Project, a grassroots initiative led by Drew Lewis Foundation at The Fairbanks founder Amy Blansit, is working to reduce barriers to home ownership one homeowner at a time in the Grant Beach neighborhood. Blansit supports Restore SGF and hopes it will lead to a wave of reinvestment in Springfield’s historic neighborhoods.
According to DrewLewis.org, the goal of The Blue House Project is to make homeownership an achievable goal for low-income families in north Springfield. The Drew Lewis Foundation purchases and renovates north side properties to offer a lease-to-buy option for participants in the RISE (Reaching Independence through Support and Education) program, which focuses on providing resources and empowering families to increase self-sufficiency and stability. The goal is transitioning the tenants to homeowners within two years.
Blansit works with lenders, the City of Springfield and countless other community partners to help families access the resources to make their dreams of owning a quality, affordable home a reality.
“This unique path to homeownership helps break the cycle of poverty one property at a time, as the family can learn and develop healthy and sustainable living habits without worrying about the roof over their heads,” Blansit says.
Looking to the future
Long-term goals for Restore SGF include forming a community development corporation (CDC) with stakeholders and community partners to provide a central resource for all residential programs, more effectively market the programs and create incentives and financing programs especially for rehabilitating older homes.
CDCs are not-for-profit organizations incorporated to provide programs, offer services and engage in other activities that promote and support community development. CDCs usually serve a geographic location such as a neighborhood or a town.
Another dream of the organizers of Restore SGF is the creation of a land bank in Springfield, which is also a legislative priority for City Council for 2021. Land banks require state approval in Missouri and are governmental entities or nonprofit corporations that are focused on the conversion of vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties into productive use. Kansas City, Blue Springs, St. Joseph and St. Louis all have land banks and have used them to improve neighborhoods and housing stock.
Until a CDC is formed, staff from the City’s Planning and Development Department are serving as the “front door” for Restore SGF. Visit restoresgf.com or call 417-864-1031 for more information.