New Habitat for Humanity program works to help homeowners make repairs

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FLINT (WJRT) - (06/12/15) - Poverty levels in the city of Flint fall far below the national average, making it hard for many homeowners to make home repairs.

A new Habitat for Humanity program is working to help those families and tackle blight in Genesee County.

Outside her house near downtown Flint, Vernetta Cowell greets two men from Habitat for Humanity. They're here to help her fix the place up.

"When my husband died, everything stopped. Because he had done all the remodeling, he built the rooms, put the addition on," Cowell said.

Cowell is benefiting from a new program launched by Genesee County Habitat for Humanity. Instead of building new houses, the aim is to help people renovate the homes they are already living in.

"It's my home, and you just hate to see it just fall down. I don't have that kind of money," Cowell said.

Cowell has never lived anywhere else. Her parents bought the house in 1939 when she was just a baby.

The home she loves has a leaky roof, and Cowell can't afford to fix it herself.

"We're looking at either reshingling or putting on a new roof, depending on what she needs," said Thomas Hutchison of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity.

"Oh, I'm very excited, oh my gosh, I can't wait," Cowell said.

To start out, the program will target several Flint neighborhoods: Foss Avenue, Civic Park, Grand Traverse District and Mott Park.

That's where the Vaiopolous's live. They bought their house so their older kids could go to Kettering, but soon found it needed a lot of work - inside and out.

"We bought the house while we were in Greece through the Internet and when we got here found out the house was stripped," said Alexandros Vaiopoulos, of Flint.

No pipes, no electricity, no water heater. They fixed what they could on their own, but Habitat is stepping in to help do the rest.

Through the project, qualifying homeowners can get roof repair, siding replacement and wheelchair ramp construction, as well as electric, plumbing and heating repairs inside.

It's not completely free - the families must contribute 3 percent of the project cost and provide eight hours of sweat equity - whether that means helping with repairs or providing the crew lunch.

"A much more holistic approach than we were able to take in the past. We're really excited to be able to do this now," said Vincent Slocum, of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity.

Eliminating blight and strengthening neighborhoods - one home and one family at a time.

To learn how to qualify and apply for the program, click the link in the 'Related Links' section of this story.

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