Niagara Gazette — A Niagara Falls organization working to educate, rehabilitate neighborhoods and provide affordable housing is growing quickly.
Jim Haid, the coordinator for the Isaiah 61 Project, said his group should be finished restoring a Whitney Avenue home the organization bought from the city by January and is looking to get started on other houses around the city during the Niagara Falls Planning Board’s meeting Wednesday evening.
“Our hope is to take more of these houses and do the same,” Haid said.
The planning board voted unanimously to approve six houses to come off the city’s long list of abandoned properties and sold to the not-for-profit for $500 each.
Haid and his agency will not take deed to all the houses at once, but will instead ask city council for approval to buy the houses one at a time until they have a better understanding of how quickly they will be able to complete each rehabilitation. But, with the houses already approved by the planning board, the organization has one less hurdle to pass in taking deed to each house.
“We’re hoping to continue to do this for the city, really at no cost to the city,” Haid said.
The Isaiah 61 Project buys city-owned houses and uses them to train underemployed and unemployed city residents in skilled labor in conjunction with Orleans Niagara BOCES. Students earn program certificates as they work with an instructor and volunteer contractors to repair the houses. Upon completion, the organization offers the house at a reasonable price and coordinates a low-interest loan for low- and moderate-income applicants.
Haid said the program has attracted many interested parties — students, foundations, volunteers — and there is enough support to move quickly on the next house. There are 10 students enrolled for next semester’s class.
“We have more students who want to be involved in the program,” Haid said. “Bu we need more teachers and we actually need more houses.”