COURT STREET VILLAGE NONPROFIT HOUSING CORPORATION

NICE INITIATIVE

                              (Neighborhood Investment for Community Enhancement)

Court Street Village Nonprofit developed the NICE Initiative (Neighborhood Investment for Community Enhancement) in 2009 to assist the neighborhoods we support become safe, strong and vital communities.  Beginning with the "tipping point" neighborhood of Central Park, the NICE Initiative focuses on five (5) strategies, or BLISS (Blight, Lighting, Investors, Safety and Security) specific to the Central Park neighborhood. The NICE Initiative was unveiled to neighborhood stakeholders in January, 2013.  Long term, our goal is to replicate this initiative in the other neighborhoods we support.

Central Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in downtown Flint, Michigan, and its proximity to two anchor institutions, Mott Community College and UM-Flint, make the stability of this neighborhood vital. Central Park is 65% rentals, 35% owner-occupied. A large number of college students rent in the neighborhood, many of them international students. The NICE Initiative works to improve neighborhood conditions, thereby attracting homeowners, landlords, tenants and college students.

One of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, Central Park’s stability rests with the residents who own homes and housing conditions will continue to be dictated by the landlords who own homes here. Through the NICE Initiative, our goal is to increase the curb appeal of the neighborhood so we can continue our diverse mix of owner-occupied and rental homes. By improving the attractiveness of the neighborhood, housing stock increases and safety improves. This contributes to the long-term stability of the neighborhood. 

                                                            BLISS Strategies
                                  (Blight, Lighting, Investors, Safety and Security)

I. Blight

A. PIP – Our Property Improvement Plan is designed to improve the curb appeal of homes through painting, repairing/replacing roofs, porches, steps, handrails, garage repair/demolition and windows. A condition report on each home in the neighborhood was completed in March, 2013 and a follow up in conjunction with the City of Flint took place in 2017. From 2016-2017, we received a total of $90,000 to paint 14 homes in the neighborhood.  More detail is listed below under Investor's about the Paint Project.  Plans for 2018 include seeking funding for the PIP program.

B. Landscaping – We will assess homes in need of foliage trimming and removal in 2018 in an effort to beautify the neighborhood and improve curb appeal. This will also deter would-be criminals that can use overgrown foliage to obscure their activity.

C. Vacant Homes – Research was completed in 2015 to determine which vacant homes are bank owned, foreclosed due to taxes, owned but empty, owned by the Land Bank, etc. We have been successful in working with the Land Bank to have a dilapidated homes in Central Park and Fairfield Village demolished. Each neighborhood is currently compiling a list of homes to be added to the Land Bank's demolition list in 2018 and we are seeking funding to rehabilitate homes that are livable. 

Additionally, CSVNP will continue to advocate on behalf of the neighborhood for strict code enforcement by working with the city's Blight Coordinator and Rental Inspector.  The Land Bank's Clean & Green program will continue to be an important partnership for lawn care in 2018.   

II. Lighting

The lighting in Central Park did not have an adequate footprint, causing pockets of dark areas throughout the neighborhood. Students and homeowners walking at night felt unsafe. In addition, the Mercury Vapor and High Pressure Sodium light fixtures were outdated and not cost efficient. Court Street Village presented a plan, and budget, to a local nonprofit in May, 2013. Funding was approved by the McFarlan Charitable Foundation and we collaborated with Consumers Energy and City of Flint officials to begin plans for the conversion. Five test light fixtures were installed by Consumer's Energy in August, 2014. The remaining 45 fixtures were completed on December 5, 2014.  An additional ten LED street lights were installed in July, 2015.  This was a cutting-edge project that directly involved residents from the Central Park Neighborhood Association.  We are still proud to be the only neighborhood in the City of Flint in which street lights have been converted to LED - where people actually live. Our goal for 2018 is to replicate the success of the LED street lights and seek funding to convert the street lights in Fairfield Village to LED.

Overgrown trees in these aged neighborhoods block street lighting and need to be trimmed. Upgraded lighting will only be successful when we are able supplement it with tree trimming. In preparation for the LED lighting in Fairfield Village, we received a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint in 2017 to trim around existing street lights, thus preparing us for LED lighting.  

III. Investors

The Central Park neighborhood is 65% rental. Some landlords lack the initiative to keep their properties attractive. In addition, there is a disconnect between landlords, homeowners and renters. Our goal is to beautify the neighborhood by improving housing conditions, bridge the gap between all stakeholders, and establish accountability.

A. CPC (Central Park Certified) – We are developing a program that would allow landlords to become “certified”. This includes working with the city of Flint on code enforcement. Once a landlord passes city inspection and criteria set forth by the Investors Committee, they will be able to utilize services through the program. This includes usage of a standardized lease agreement and access to credit and background checks. Increasing the caliber of renters will result in less turn-over. Less turn-over will result in higher profits for landlords. Higher profits will result in positive cash flow, which will allow landlords to maintain and beautify their property

B. Landlord/Tenant Handbooks – One segment of becoming CPC is the ability to use a standardized landlord handbook and tenant manual. This will help landlords become consistent with their rental policy and procedures. The tenant handbook will inform renters of expectations (ie; when to put trash to the curb, inform them of recycling criteria, etc.). Better communication and consistent policy will make for better landlords and tenants and assist in bridging the gap between renters, landlords and homeowners. The Community Foundation of Greater Flint issued CSVNP a grant to have the landlord/tenant manual printed on CD in 2014, and additional funding in 2017 to have hard copies printed and the manuals duplicated on flash drives. 

C.  Paint Project - From 2016-2017, fourteen homes in the Central Park neighborhood have received a face lift with fresh, new paint.  The results have become infectious, with nearly 42% of the entire housing stock receiving some sort of home improvement or upgrade within the past three years.  The project began as a way of encouraging landlords to become involved in the committee, but became so popular, we expanded it to owner occupants in 2017.

IV. Safety

 A. Sidewalks – Because Central Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, tree roots are pushing up sidewalks which make them trip hazards. This causes many pedestrians to walk in the street thereby causing another safety hazard. A sidewalk assessment has been completed and a budget drafted. We will seek partnerships and potential funding opportunities to replace the sidewalks in 2018.

B. Trees - Many trees in this aged neighborhood are overgrown and protrude past the sidewalks which makes walking on the sidewalks nearly impossible. Eye level tree trimming will encourage pedestrians to use the sidewalks, making the neighborhood safer. CSVNP received a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint to trim trees and bushes that obstruct the sidewalks.  The grant also allowed for the removal of sixteen tree stumps.  Tree stumps and foliage trimming has become routine maintenance and we will continue to seek funding throughout 2018.

V.  Security 

After a rash of B&E’s in the Central Park neighborhood in 2012, allegedly by neighborhood youth, Court Street Village assisted the neighbohrood in establishing a Safety Committee. The following are initiatives that came as a result of the committee meetings.

A. Youth Council – After the B&E’s occurred in Central Park, we discovered many adults in the neighborhood could not properly identify the youth. This was an opportunity to bridge the gap between neighborhood youth and adults. Because of the many renters, transient youth did not feel connected to the neighborhood and there was no sense of pride. We began with a brainstorming session involving neighborhood teenagers in September, 2012.  The Youth Council remained active until May, 2015 when seventeen of our eighteen active youth relocated out of the city due to the high cost of water.  As youth are beginning to move into the Fairfield Village neighborhood, our plan for 2018 is to duplicate the Youth Council concept into that neighborhood.

B. Patrols – We have been working with Mott Campus Police and they have increased their presence in the neighborhood. We are currently working with UM-Flint campus police to do the same. UM-Flint’s investment in the UAH (Urban Alternative House) on Eddy Street increases their stake in this neighborhood. Our long term goal is to establish a “Super Safety Committee” that would include major stakeholders such as the Flint Cultural Center, Mott Community College and UM-Flint.

C. Cameras – In summer, 2013, CPNA purchased one wireless camera that can be moved easily to known “hot spots” throughout the neighborhood. A second wireless camera was purchased with funding from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint in November, 2014.  Both the Central Park and Fairfield Village neighborhoods are open to researching other types of surveillance cameras in 2018.

The NICE Initiative is a comprehensive plan to stabilize and improve the neighborhoods Court Street Village Nonprofit supports.  Recognizing each neighborhood is unique and has its own set of challenges and assets, strategies will differ according to individual neighborhood needs. Strategies may also change or evolve as these challenges are met.  Please check back periodically for updates on our progress.