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News Now

CU System
Self-Help builds 100th house to stabilize neighborhoods
DURHAM, N.C. (11/24/10)--Anyone who loves movies remembers the line, “If you build it, they will come,” from “Field of Dreams.” Self-Help CU has a story that is just as inspiring, and its memorable line could be, “If we help them build it, they will stay.” Self-Help CU is currently in completing its 100th built or renovated home since 1996 (The Herald Sun Nov. 19). The program began 14 years ago when Self-Help CU became involved in the purchase of 30 homes in Durham, N.C. to help stabilize Walltown, a neighborhood near Duke University How has Self-Help CU been able to keep its home building program going for 14 years? Smart financing is one way. The credit union has established its own ventures fund for some of the higher-risk loans it takes on. The credit union also works through subsidy programs and a low-interest loan provided by Duke University. But just as importantly, the program works in neighborhoods that have a history, says Evan Covington-Chavez, real estate development director at the credit union. “We focus on neighborhoods that are already in existence,” Covington Chavez told News Now. “We’re not building subdivisions or getting rid of the old neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have stories to tell. People want to know who lived on the corner 20 years ago, or who lived across the street. That makes it more sustainable.” When the program was first established in Walltown, neighbors weren’t so sure they would be welcome to stick around and tell their stories. “We weren’t from the neighborhood,” Covington-Chavez explained. “It took a lot of community meetings and a lot of years to give people the confidences that we’re there to work with them and give them what they wanted to see in their neighborhood.” The program has since branched out to other neighborhoods. Covington-Chavez says the reason for that growth is because the concept makes sense. “From the beginning we knew we were doing responsible lending. Why not extend that and build houses that our members and people in our neighborhoods can afford?”


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