SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Buying a home isn’t an option for thousands of families across the country. In Savannah, a local organization is working to create more affordable options while they preserve the city’s rich history.
“There was a family that lived in this house. They have a story like you have a story in your house, in your home and your family,” Sue Adler the CEO and President of Historic Savannah Foundation explained, describing the motivation behind their new affordable housing pilot program.
HSF has spent the past 60 years working to preserve the places whose stories helped shape the foundation for what Savannah looks like today.
“HSF has a 60-year history of saving vacant historic properties, but this is really a first for us because we are renovating a building from start to finish and then selling it specifically for the purpose of affordable housing,” said Ryan Arvay, the organization’s Director of Preservation and Historic Properties. “We want to in saving this home, not only save a physical structure, but we want to really save and maintain the character of the neighborhood, and that includes most importantly the people who currently live here.”
A recently donated home on 39th Street will kick off the new initiative. For the past ten years, it has been one of many homes in the Cuyler-Brownsville Historic District sitting vacant. Thirty percent of the area’s properties are empty, and many of them eventually get torn down.
“How many decades ago were the houses on this corner torn down, and it’s still a vacant lot, right? That doesn’t help,” Arvay said. “The community doesn’t help the neighborhood in any way. Neither does a vacant property which perpetually attracts litter. It attracts illicit behavior. It promotes vandalism. So this vacant home has a lot of potential trapped in it.”
Arvay hopes the push for more affordable housing will also help with the growing number of people who are facing home insecurity.
“A lot of times people that are homeless are, you know, were one or two steps away from maybe finding homes, but they couldn’t afford it. And so, you know, the affordability by providing more affordable housing, hopefully, we are in some small way stemming the tide of homelessness,” Arvay explained.
Once the home is finished, HSF will work with Savannah’s down payment assistance program so families can apply for the historic property. They also plan to implement their affordable housing project in as many neighborhoods as they can.