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Spring 2014 NeighborNEWS

Written by Administrator Thursday, 06 March 2014 17:33

Please click below to check out the NeighborNEWS Spring 2014 edition!

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VITA Free Tax Preparation Celebrates 10 Years!

Written by Administrator Monday, 27 January 2014 23:29


VITA Free Tax Preparation Celebrates 10 Years!

Who: Ron E. Smith Academy of Businessand Finance & NeighborWorks Waco

     Confirmed participants

          Roy Nash, President & CEO of NeighborWorks Waco
          Angela Reiher, Dean of Academies
          Angelo Ochoa, Site Coordinator
          Sandra Cruz, Student Manager

What: A press conference to highlight the successes of the past 10 years and the ongoing collaboration of NeighborWorks® Waco and Ron E. Smith Academy of Business and Finance which helped taxpayers receive over $3.7 million in refunds last year. The VITA program is the #1 student led tax preparation site in the country and is free of charge!

Where: University High School, 3201 S. New Road, Waco, TX 76706

When: Thursday, January 30th at 5pm

RSVP: Media interested in attending, please contact Honey Jenkins at 254.752.1647 or


About NeighborWorks® Waco

NeighborWorks® Waco is a local non-profit organization dedicated to assisting Waco and surrounding areas families in purchasing their first home. Since its inception in 1993, NeighborWorks® Waco has worked to fulfill its mission to build stronger neighborhoods through homeownership and other quality housing opportunities by providing more than $13 million in 1st and 2nd mortgage loans, assisting over 2,500 families in becoming homeowners, providing homebuyer and credit counseling for families, and spending more than $16 million in the Waco community to build or rehabilitate over 260 homes. The organization is a chartered member of the nationwide NeighborWorks® Network, which is made up of more than 230 organizations that engage in revitalization strategies that strengthen communities and transform lives across the country. For additional information on NeighborWorks® Waco, visit



20th Year NeighborNEWS

Written by Administrator Monday, 04 November 2013 00:00

Please click to check out the NeighborNEWS Fall 2013 special 20th year edition!

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NeighborWorks Waco marks 20 years

Written by Administrator Monday, 07 October 2013 19:13

Robert Jackson expected good things from NeighborWorks Waco.

Jackson was the treasurer of the newly formed Brooks Avenue Neighborhood Association in 1993, when the group decided to contribute $10,000 to help jump start the new housing organization, believing it could help more residents buy homes in the Greater Waco area.

But he didn’t expect that he would wind up being one of those residents who would need the nonprofit group’s help to buy his first home.

“I was still young and single, and it was time for me to look for my own house, and I had saved up some money, but I needed some help with the down payment and closing costs,” said Jackson, 52, of his decision to purchase a three-bedroom home on the 2000 block of North Seventh Street in North Waco in 1997.

Providing costs

NeighborWorks provided about $5,000 in closing and inspection costs for the house and financed his mortgage.

Jackson and his wife, Joanna, paid off the mortgage in October 2012, just a week before he was laid off from the job he had held at Mrs. Baird’s for 34 years.

Jackson is among the numerous success stories for NeighborWorks, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

In the past two decades, NeighborWorks has helped more than 2,500 families transition into homeownership by providing mortgage financing or pre-homeownership assistance.

Officially incorporated in August 1993 as Neighborhood Housing Services of Waco, the group was a brainchild of community leaders, bankers and city officials working to help residents obtain financing to purchase homes.

155 homes

Since then, the group also has built and sold 155 homes to low- and moderate- income families in Waco and surrounding cities like Bellmead, China Spring, Lacy Lakeview and Hewitt.

Ralph Thompson bought a NeighborWorks home on the 2400 block of Lasker Avenue in 1999, one of the first houses the agency built.

He had lived in the same Lake Shore Drive apartment complex for 10 years, but finally decided to look into buying a home after being fed up with annual rent hikes.

“Some people are scared to buy a home because they’re not ready to get that debt, and it is a big debt,” said Thompson, a 57-year-old Army veteran who works at the Waco Veterans Affairs Hospital. “But you can pay it off. You can’t pay off that rent.”

He turned to NeighborWorks after stumbling upon a house the group was remodeling at the time on Earle Avenue in East Waco, and because he “didn’t know anything at all about buying a house” but figured the organization would be helpful in guiding him through the process.

Financial education

The agency has provided financial education classes to around 2,800 residents since it started.

“I think the housing market has had its definite ups and downs, so that’s something that’s changed in the last 20 years,” said DeLisa Burnell-Smith, vice president and chief operating officer for NeighborWorks Waco. “But as far as the organization, I think we have grown a lot. We have built capacity, we’ve added programs and services, and we’ve adjusted to the changes in a positive way.”

That has included adjusting to the still-recovering housing market following the 2008 mortgage crisis.

NeighborWorks would build up to 23 homes a year during its peak construction boom in the mid-2000s.

But after the housing bubble burst, widespread national mortgage defaults and foreclosures forced lenders to stiffen requirements for home loans, shrinking NeighborWorks’ pool of prospective homebuyers.

“We’ve built some homes and sometimes they would stay on the market for over a year,” CEO Roy Nash said. “When that happens, you almost have to quit building because you depend on the sales to bring money back in and to help fund the next build.”

Nash said the organization only built and sold two homes in 2012, when home sales dipped again nationally.

But it already has sold seven homes this year.

Nash thinks it will take another five years to build back up to the peak home-building rates.

Looking for a new path to sustain its work and continue the goal of putting families in homes, Neighbor- Works in 2008 started purchasing and renovating homes to lease to residents, taking advantage of lower home prices and the availability of budget-friendly foreclosed properties.

It now has 79 rental properties throughout Waco and surrounding McLennan County cities, all but three of which are currently occupied.

Nash said the organization looks to encourage responsible tenants to either purchase their rental home or begin the process of buying another house.

Despite the organization’s strides in the past 20 years, Waco’s homeownership rate is around 43 percent, compared to 67 percent nationally.

“It’s mostly a mindset issue (holding people back from buying a home),” Nash said. “To buy a home through our program, they can purchase the home for as little as $500 down, and in fact most of them have already put more than that up for their deposit.”

Before purchasing a NeighborWorks house on the 2000 block of Lyle Avenue in 1999, Patsy Young was renting a duplex and had been a renter all of her life, just as her parents rented her childhood home.

Credit scores

Young, 60, said she and her ex-husband sought a home loan when they first married but were told they did not qualify because of credit scores and their combined debt.

Her chances improved as a single woman earning steady income from the Owens-Illinois glass plant, but she still needed some encouragement to take the plunge into homeownership.

“I actually found this house by accident, because my cousin was trying to buy a house and she was looking at this one but decided she didn’t want it because there isn’t an attached garage, so my daughter had me come look at it and I decided to get it,” Young said. “My daughter works in real estate, and she has always been an advocate of buying a home.”

But Young thinks becoming a homeowner is not for everyone. Older residents may not be able to handle the upkeep of a house on their own, she said.

Burnell-Smith said many clients may convince themselves that they cannot afford a home or that they lack sufficient credit to land a lender.

But NeighborWorks staff members work to help residents create customized plans outlining steps they can take to improve their chances or direct them to programs to begin moving forward with buying a home.

“I think people oftentimes, when they go to our agency, they’re looking for an opportunity to pursue homeownership, but what they walk away with is knowing that they can do it, whether it takes them six months or two years,” Burnell-Smith said.


New houses to bloom on razed R.L. Smith School site

Written by Administrator Thursday, 12 September 2013 14:22

A local nonprofit group is writing a new chapter for the site of the demolished R.L. Smith Elementary School.

Neighborworks Waco plans to start early next year building 12 starter homes in the 400 block of Turner Street, in a part of East Waco that has seen little development in decades.

The city of Waco agreed in May to sell the property to Neighborworks for $24,010 but is still working on a development agreement with the group before handing over title. The city also has committed to spend about $60,000 of a federal block grant to relocate a sewer line on the property.

Waco City Councilman Wilbert Austin said the Neighborworks project could ignite much-needed development in the heart of historic East Waco, which he represents.

“I think it’s going to be a great help to the community,” he said. “When those new, energy-efficient houses are built there, it’s really going to set up that neighborhood.”

Neighborworks executive director Roy Nash said the agency intends to sell three- bedroom homes on the property for $85,000 to $105,000, offering financial assistance for homebuyers with below-average incomes.

“I think we really expect this to give rejuvenation and new life to the neighborhood, not just in that block but in the whole area between Waco Drive and Elm (Avenue),” he said.

The city seized the blighted former school for back taxes last year and spent more than $280,000 tearing it down.

The school, built in 1913 as the Fifth Ward School, was called R.L. Smith Elementary by the time it was shut down in the 1970s. A charter school operated there in the late 1990s until the state shut it down. The building was tagged as unsafe in 2006, but the city discovered that ownership of the building was unclear.

After the demolition, the city put the property up for bid, and Neighborworks submitted the high bid of $24,010, only slightly above the tax appraisal value for the property.

Close bidding

Neighborworks barely outbid Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church, which had offered $24,000 for the 2.2-acre property. The church, across the street at 500 Turner St., had proposed to build a new sanctuary there, according to the pastor, the Rev. Melvin Petty.

Petty said his church now will consider expanding on its current property.

“There’s always another plan,” he said. “God always makes a way.”

He said he’s glad the old “eyesore” school building is gone and that new development is coming.

“I think that’s a good idea,” he said. “Those are potential members and new neighbors for us.”

Neighborworks will have to get the block subdivided for 12 lots of about 60 by 125 feet. Nash said the development costs will be low because streets and infrastructure are already in place.

Homebuyers who make less than 85 percent of median income can qualify for housing assistance both from the city of Waco and Neighborworks. For those who don’t qualify for conventional loans, Neighborworks also offers its own financing.

Neighborworks has built 48 homes around East Waco, including the 18-unit Pecan Valley subdivision off Waco Drive, which is nearly built out.

He said the Turner Street development has several attractions, including the adjacent East Waco Park, which has new playground equipment, a pavilion and walking trails. Within a few blocks are the East Waco Library, the Doris Miller Y, the Family Health Center clinic and Elm Avenue shops.

Wilford Hall, 72, who lives across the street from the site, said he was glad to hear about Neighborworks’ plans.

“I’d rather have houses than apartments,” he said, sitting on a sofa on his front porch amid lush potted plants.

He said he was glad to see the “raggly” old school building demolished, and he hopes the presence of young families will help stabilize the neighborhood.

“It gets pretty naughty sometimes,” he said. “Other times, it’s like you see it now, quiet and peaceful.”

Hall said he would talk to his son and daughter, who are expecting their first child, about buying one of the homes.


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