Local non-profit says Mercyhealth property donation project will help strengthen neighborhoods

Local News

Flipping houses to fix neighborhoods.

Mercyhealth recently gifted two homes on Lawndale Avenue to the Northwest Rockford Redevelopment Corporation (NRRC). The non-profit’s goal is to bring property owners into the area.

Since 2016, NRRC has purchased six properties in northwest Rockford and has sold four. The other two are still under rehabilitation.

“When you’re a renter, that’s fine, that’s great,” said NRRC executive director John Mecklenburg. “But if something is going wrong in the neighborhood, you’re going to leave when the lease is up and we understand that. But if you’re an owner occupant and you own a house and you see a problem, you call the police, you call the city and you call the county.”

The group will do structural and rehab work for three houses, two for NRRC and one that Mercyhealth owns. The hospital’s house at 2619 Lawndale Avenue already has a buyer.

“We had an entire street where on this side of basically rental housing,” said Mecklenburg. “Now, what it’s going to become is owner occupied housing.”

Robert and Mary Sargent live across the street from the houses. The couple says rentals create a stream of unknown faces.

“We have a lot of traffic like that,” said Robert Sargent. “Not just the people that rent the properties but they bring other people with them. Company or move in other people temporary. You never know who is exactly in the house.”

The initiative is based off a program Mecklenburg used at SwedishAmerican ten years ago.

“We increased owner occupancy from 35 to 51%, that’s important,” said Mecklenburg. “What’s more important, is that during that time, major crime came down 12%.”

The Sargents have lived in their home for nearly 25 years and hope the change will bring a neighborly feel back to the area.

“We’d like to get that chemistry going. That’s why it was a concern when those houses were emptied but to hear a non-profit is taking over and want to keep that type of environment going, that’s a blessing and good news to hear.”

NRRC sells the homes around the $45-65,000 range.

The group says it plans on having the first Lawndale home done by spring 2020.

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