Making New Plans

After cut in funding, Jubilee Homes continues to revitalize community

With less money to work with, Jubilee Homes is doing things differently. The nonprofit that has worked in the area for decades will build fewer homes for Syracuse residents over the next year, refocusing on less costly rehab projects instead due to a cut in federal funding.

Walter Dixie, executive director of Jubilee Homes, said the organization relies heavily on the Community Development Block Grant that it receives from the federal government.

This year, the organization’s federal funding has been reduced by $70,000. Jubilee was able to complete an entire block of houses with its budget a few years ago, Dixie said, but with a reduced budget of about $310,000, he has to start reconsidering Jubilee’s plans.

“We have to shift our focus from small-scale home construction projects and start thinking like a larger, forprofit company.”

Dixie said the organization started building new affordable housing on the South Side and repairing housing in poor shape to sell it for affordable prices.

Dixie also said the organization is looking into larger development projects such as supermarkets and office spaces that can generate income.

“We need to utilize our facilities by getting involved in bigger building projects so that we can lease our property to other companies,” Dixie said. “We need to generate funding through things like rent for our spaces because we can’t afford to keep things the way they are.”

Desaree Dixie passes by the countless number of community service awards that adorn the walls of the Tallman Street Jubilee Homes office when she arrives to work each day.

“The most enjoyable part of this job is working so closely with the community,” said Desaree Dixie, the Jubilee Homes housing director. “We work hard to help build up a community that has often been overlooked.

Syracuse Common Councilor Bob Dougherty said that the cuts in funding for agencies that improve and construct housing in Syracuse will especially affect the South Side community, where one in five homes is vacant.

“Less funding for these agencies means less housing,” Dougherty said.

“These agencies that build and repair homes are a great help to the community because they improve housing structures on the South Side, which are typically very old.”

Phil Prehn, a community organizer of Syracuse United Neighbors, a nonprofit community improvement organization, said the lack of federal funding for housing nonprofits affects the overall value of the community as well.

“When there’s not enough money to tear down or improve these vacant homes, it just adds to the problem, which kills the property values of the area,” Prehn said.

Other cities, like Buffalo for example, also struggle to improve neighborhoods where as many as one in three houses are vacant, said Caitlin Godin, program director of Heart of the City, a nonprofit housing development organization in Buffalo.

“Adequate funding is hard to come by in this economy, especially for areas that are in great need of assistance,” Godin said. “The government can only do so much, and then it’s up to the efforts of the individual organizations to really work for their community.”

Desaree Dixie said that while the organization is looking to shift its focus, it is still working to help the community through continued housing assistance, as well as youth employment programs and programs to improve the appearance of vacant lands on the South Side.

“We’re doing our best to rebuild the community,” she said. “We’re invested in the community and we’re not going anywhere.”