Projects involving Vincent Village include building the first new homes in decades on Pontiac Street in southeast Fort Wayne
Some of the first new houses built in years along East Pontiac Street now are under construction through a project involving co-developers Miller-Valentine Group of Cincinnati and Vincent Village, the Fort Wayne social-service ministry serving homeless families.
The project includes building 19 new homes, all of which will have four bedrooms, said Denise Andorfer, Vincent Village executive director. The homes, some of which are on Winter and Lillie streets, should be completed by spring and will be managed and maintained by Miller-Valentine.
They will be the first new homes built along East Pontiac Street since 1950, said Eric Baca, chief deputy at the Wayne Township Assessor’s office. The homes are located in the 1300 block, in the area of Holton and Bowser avenues.
“I think there is something to be said for restoring the pride of a neighborhood,” Andorfer said. “Unfortunately, the neighborhood has a reputation for its high crime, but much of the Oxford neighborhood is made up of hard-working families and retired homeowners.”
The new houses are one of several housing projects Vincent Village is involved in on Fort Wayne’s southeast side, including a few projects involving use of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program through the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA). Corporations can reduce their tax rates by investing in the development of LIHTC affordable-housing projects.
Neighborhood residents are excited about the investment in their area, said Charlene Jones, Oxford Community Association president.
“Yes, I think the building of homes and the rehabilitation of homes in the Oxford area will be a great asset,” Jones said via email. “Not only will it raise the property values, but it will help beautify the area by getting rid of some of the run down and abandoned houses.”
Vincent Village works with homeless families to get them into shelter and then helps them gradually make the transition to living independently on their own.
When they first arrive, families stay in Vincent House, a former St. Hyacinth Catholic Church building that can accommodate 10 families, Andorfer said. With the help of caseworkers and social services, which include health, parenting, financial management and job-hunting skills, families progress from staying in Vincent House to living on their own in nearby homes owned by Vincent Village. The families pay a minimal rent based on their income as they work toward moving out to live on their own.
During 2017, 52 families went through Vincent House and 38 families lived in the 35 homes and apartments Vincent Village owns around its main campus on Holton Avenue south of Pontiac Street, Andorfer said.
“We don’t have enough houses,” she said.
The 19 new homes are located on vacant lots along streets where Vincent Village already owns homes, Andorfer said. As part of the development partnership, Vincent Village will provide social-work support services needed by families living in the homes.
She hopes client families who are ready to move out on their own will move into the Miller-Valentine-managed houses because paying rent there will help them rebuild their credit history, Andorfer said. The rental arrangement also will be a lease-purchase agreement, which means a family that leases a house for 15 years will be able to buy it.
Keeping client families in nearby housing means Vincent Village staff will have people they know living in the neighborhood around the organization’s campus and also can provide them with social services quickly, if needed, Andorfer said. In addition, she believes the new housing will create more of a neighborhood feel. People can get to know each other and watch out for each other.
“It’s hard to do that when you constantly have people moving in and out with renters,” she said.
The 19 new homes are part of a $14.5 million project that also includes renovating the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Pontiac Street, just west of Anthony Boulevard, into 31 apartments of various sizes. Vincent Village is developing the Coca-Cola plant housing with Miller-Valentine. Renovation work should be completed in December, Andorfer said.
As with the new homes, Vincent Village will provide support services to apartment residents, she said.
Vincent Village also is involved in two other housing projects:
• A $500,000 project being done in collaboration with the city of Fort Wayne will rehabilitate six existing houses and build one new one near the Vincent Village campus, Andorfer said. The city’s Office of Housing & Neighborhood Services (HANDS) approved using federal Housing and Urban Development money to fund the project.
• Vincent Village also hopes to launch an approximately $5 million project that would rehabilitate 15 existing homes and build 15 new homes in the neighborhood around Vincent Village, she said. The project, which Vincent Village is organizing in collaboration with the Model Group, would involve constructing the new homes on vacant lots.
The proposed work, which has been approved by the HANDS board, also would involve demolishing the old St. Hyacinth Catholic Church rectory building on Holton Street and replacing it with a building containing six efficiency apartments with kitchenettes, which would be for families who are ready to move out of Vincent House.
Vincent Village would own the houses and apartments and use them for its clients, Andorfer said. She needs to send the proposal to the state by July for consideration for approval, which could come this fall.
If the project is approved, she said construction likely would start in 2019 and be completed in late 2020.
In addition, local Christian congregation The Chapel also is working with Vincent Village and Fort Wayne Habitat for Humanity to rehab 10 homes in five years to make them ready for client families, Andorfer said. Eight of the houses will be for Vincent Village and two for Fort Wayne Habitat.
Members of The Chapel also have volunteered to do painting, yard work and other projects to maintain houses owned by Vincent Village, which is work her staff sometimes can’t keep up with, she said.
VIDEO OF THE CHAPEL’S WORK WITH VINCENT VILLAGE