Detroit church builds 90 homes in four years

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DETROIT (AP) -- A church on Detroit's west side has literally become a community developer by building 90 homes over four years and injecting pride and optimism in an area scarred by neglect.

"It's completely changed the landscape," the Rev. Oscar King III of Northwest Unity Baptist Church told the Detroit Free Press. "In the midst of decline and vacant homes, we decided we would stay here and reclaim this."

There were more than 800 applicants for the rental homes, mostly two-story, brick colonials with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a finished basement. The residents include professionals, low-income families and people who were homeless. Monthly cost depends on a person's income.

Church officials set up a nonprofit organization, Northwest Unity Homes, and took on a Cleveland developer as a partner. Tax credits and other government aid have helped the project.

"We don't need a million-dollar church," said resident Jack Bostic Jr., 32, referring to large, fancy houses of worship. "We need more homes. I want to stay in Detroit. Detroit is going to rise again."

Two doors away, a couch sits in front of an abandoned house. Nonetheless, the progress is obvious.

"The neighborhood looks like the suburbs," Bostic said. "It's a blessing."

Janet Norfleet, 54, of Detroit lived for a dozen years in a decaying home with mold and no heat. She moved into a new home in 2008, and her children do their part by picking up trash and keeping the street clean, a habit others have followed.

King said a stable home can lead to stable families. The first phase started in 2007 and the second has just ended.

"This is our mission," King said. "This is why we're here. The church should be a voice for the voiceless."

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