Invest Newark presents keys to families who gained homeownership through conversion program

Patricia Hobbs, a lifelong Newark resident, received the keys to her home Tuesday. A home she never thought she would own — up until two years ago, when she first heard about the Newark Land Bank Section 8 Homeownership Conversion program.

The Homeownership Conversion Program is supported by a $125,000 grant from Wells Fargo, a $1.2 million construction loan from the Local Initiatives Support Corp. and a $500,000 program-related investment from the Victoria Foundation.

And on Tuesday, Mayor Ras J. Baraka joined Invest Newark CEO and President Marcus Randolph, YouthBuild founder and CEO Robert Clark, Newark city council members and other dignitaries to present Hobbs and three other Newark families with keys to their first homes.

The recipients of the properties were chosen via a lottery system for a portion of the 5,365 active Section 8 voucher holders that qualify for a mortgage through Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America. Participants complete mandatory credit and post-homeownership counseling that will be conducted by the HUD Certified Urban League of Essex County.

“Our administration has committed itself to creating pathways for more Newark residents to become homeowners, no matter their income level. Today, we are welcoming more residents into their new homes, so that they can enjoy the independence and empowerment of achieving the American dream of homeownership,” Baraka said. “We thank the Invest Newark and the Land Bank team for successfully collaborating with us to make this day happen and for continuing to transform blighted properties into vibrant neighborhoods.”

Transforming blighted city-owned properties into viable community and economic development opportunities for all Newarkers is the mission of the Newark Land Bank. It began operations in March 2021 and partners with community groups and responsible developers to strategically acquire, maintain and repurpose vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties, and efficiently return them to productive use.

The program focuses on investing in existing neighborhoods, utilizing local minority- and/or women-owned business enterprises contractors or nonprofit partners to redevelop these properties, investing in local Newark businesses.

Hobbs’ home at 223 Peshine Ave. was renovated by a team from YouthBuild, where young people learn on-the-job construction skills while obtaining their GED.

Clark shared, “Young people rebuilding their communities is what YouthBuild stands on, and this project, and the visionary leadership of Mayor Baraka for an affordable Newark, coupled with the talented execution from the Invest Newark team provides a model of a committed, capable collective.”