|Church creates housing for families in need|
The Blakemore United Methodist Church
Housing Trust, along with partner congregations, built this home in
Nashville, Tenn., for a low-income family.
A UMNS photo by Helen R. Allen.
A UMNS Feature
By Linda Green*
July 16, 2008
A United Methodist congregation in Tennessee wants to help
eliminate poverty by providing affordable housing to low-income families
Blakemore United Methodist Church in Nashville created the Blakemore
Housing Trust in 2005 to implement ministries for low-income families.
The organization operates under the theme, "Building the Walls That
Unite Us," with a focus on community.
"This project represents an effort to meet a critical need for
affordable housing in our community while building community within
Blakemore United Methodist Church and the community at large," said Ron
Merville, who directs the outreach ministry. "We see this as a way to
put our energies into a project that is rewarding for our members and
the family that purchases the home."
Last July, the trust, along with partner congregations, built a
two-story, 1,216-square-foot home in an inner-city neighborhood in
Nashville. The home was received in February by the three-member
Thompson family. Blakemore was supported by Seay-Hubbard United
Methodist Church, located in the neighborhood of the newly constructed
"I was excited to receive a new home," said Benita Thompson, 36, the
mother of two sons, 16 and 10. "It was a long process, but owning a home
is exciting. There is nothing like it in the world."
According to the Rev. Paul Gardner, Blakemore's former pastor, the value
of a ministry like the housing trust is that any congregation, without a
lot of capital, can move someone into homeownership. "The structure of
it is such that one borrows money and collects on the back end," he
said. "Any church can do this."
Affordable housing model
The trust seeks to become a model for both the denomination and
its Tennessee Annual (regional) Conference of how to provide affordable
housing to the working poor. It is also an example of The United
Methodist Church's emphasis to engage in ministry with the poor.
Gardner, now pastor at Connell Memorial United Methodist Church in
Goodlettsville, near Nashville, said the trust and the construction of
the house created an atmosphere in which the Blakemore congregation and
the homeowner were able to work together, "not just as the provider and
the needy but (it) helped show that we were very real people with the
same hopes and dreams."
Blakemore's ministry, he said, is an example of how putting creative
minds to a task can create solutions. "Taking people from renting a
house or apartment to owning a home represents a different kind of
thinking to meet the needs that we see."
"Going from renting to owning a home felt good," Thompson said. Without
the assistance from the housing trust, she said, "I could not have
afforded a new home and I would still be renting." She would have
eventually acquired a home, "but it would have been nothing as nice as
the Blakemore Housing Trust provided for me," she said.
Breaking the cycle
The ability to buy an affordable home allows the recipient
family to break the cycle of poverty through the accumulation of home
equity, Merville said.
Through federal grants obtained by the trust, the recipient family is
provided with a down payment assistance of $17,500. The trust sells the
house to the recipient family at 80 percent of market value.
Home financing is arranged by Blakemore United Methodist Church through
third-party lenders and government grants in order to convey the
property to the eventual home buyer, Merville said. The trust works with
a local community organization to identify and select a family that has
completed a series of financial counseling sessions for home buyers.
Construction of a second house will begin soon, and two lots have been
purchased, Merville said. "We look forward to beginning construction ...
and building new relationships with other congregations and home
A home is constructed in four and one half months. He said the trust
will build one house at a time and plans to continue as long as the need
for affordable housing exists.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Paul Gardner: "...very real people with the same hopes and dreams..."
Benita Thompson: "...would have been nothing I could afford..."
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