They used to call it the “Pink Flamingo.”A three-story, dilapidated tenement with pink clapboard siding at 606 Champlain Street. Even for the distressed Lower East Side, it was considered an eyesore and symbolized the decline of Berlin’s housing market.Today, the Pink Flamingo is a crown jewel in CDFA’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP).The apartment – and much of Champlain Street – has been renovated and revitalized.
NSP, funded by a $19.6 million grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), worked to save neighborhoods with high clusters of foreclosed or abandoned buildings. Initiatives were undertaken in Berlin, Manchester, Nashua, and Rochester. An additional $5 million of NSP grants will go to Berlin and Manchester in FY2012.
Resident Nathan Richard didn’t expect to find quality housing on the East Side when he moved back to Berlin last year. “These apartments are really nice. I didn’t think they had anything like this here.”
“Many of these residents weren’t used to apartments that were in good shape or where the doors shut properly,” says Kevin Lacasse of New England Family Housing, the private company that worked with the City to purchase foreclosed properties and turn them into attractive affordable housing.He says even if his company got the abandoned homes for free, they still could not have made the appropriate changes without CDFA and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
The changes to the neighborhood are more than cosmetic. In the first year since NSP began, housing values in those Berlin neighborhoods went up 17%, the number of homes with tax liens dropped 73%, and the number of calls to 911 went down 15%.
“It’s the reverse of the broken window effect,” says Kevin. “After we renovated these houses, neighbors started cutting their grass, planting flowers.” Standing in front of the former Pink Flamingo (now tastefully covered in pale yellow vinyl siding), he points to the buildings that weren’t part of the upgrades.
“The entire neighborhood has changed.”