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Housing upgrade hailed as ‘building block’ for success

South Boston News
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones, / April 21, 2016

Southside Outreach Group, Inc. — a nonprofit that helps low-income people obtain affordable and safe housing — held an open house Wednesday afternoon to present “Miller Homes,” the group’s first multi-family project in the community.

Formerly Fairmont Apartments, the 46-unit apartment complex has undergone $3.5 million in renovations to make the buildings green-friendly and energy efficient, among other improvements. The dedication event in South Boston drew some 60 people, including officials and investors in the complex’s renovation.

The featured speaker was Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones, who spoke with outward passion about the impact that housing can have on a family’s quality of life.

“It’s hard to have high performing schools or high performing students if you don’t have the stability that’s needed in that school,” Jones said. “That starts with the housing. You cannot have healthy families unless the housing in which they are living is healthy — no mold, no lead.

“Unless the housing is well, you won’t have families that are healthy. You will not have family members who can keep jobs if they don’t first have housing that’s affordable.”

Jones, a Lunenburg County native, has dealt with housing issues before during his career in economic development. Prior to being appointed by Gov. McAuliffe in 2014, Jones served as Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“I want to remind us all that we are sons and daughters of Southside Virginia,” said Jones. “I invite you to remember the folks that came before us, remember how hard they worked for us to get here, and remember that the best way to honor them is to work even harder for those children who just got off the bus and are going to a unit somewhere around here. They are what it’s all about at the end of the day, and they are what this day is about.”

Jones was effusive in his praise for Miller Homes, thanking those who made it possible.

“Yes, this is a celebration of 46 high-quality, affordable units,” Jones added. “But it’s much more than that. It’s a celebration for the foundation that you need for families to succeed.

“I want to celebrate with you and thank you for prioritizing what we all know is a building block for successful communities.”

Two members of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, William Bryant Claiborne and Hubert Pannell, also took part in the open house event.

“This is something that means a lot to me personally, because this was the area I was raised in,” Claiborne said. “I was praying that someone would come to the rescue and renovate these places because when you come from a neighborhood like this, you hate to see it go down.”

Claiborne also recognized former town manager Ted Daniel and Michelle Dixon Jones for their efforts on behalf of the project.

South Boston Town Manager Tom Raab represented Mayor Edward Owens, who could not attend the open house. Raab read a statement from Mayor Owens:

“The town of South Boston is proud of the tremendous success that Southside Outreach experienced in renovating Miller Homes — one of our oldest multi-family housing projects in South Boston. [They] were able to make critical repairs and upgrades to Miller Homes that will improve the conditions and quality of life for 46 families. [Their] work will ensure that this essential housing will remain affordable to low-income residents for many years to come. Today’s ribbon-cutting gives us the opportunity to celebrate a major step forward.”

Chris Thompson of Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development praised the project as a well-rounded investment

“We have a lot of partners and investors rooted in this community, and it’s satisfying and fun to work with those partners,” Thompson remarked. “We are thrilled to be working with Southside Outreach Group. We know housing isn’t an easy game, especially in rural areas of Virginia. So that makes this accomplishment even more significant and special.”

Earl Howerton, executive director of Southside Outreach Group, closed the ceremony by thanking investors and stakeholders that were involved with the Miller Homes project, including the Town of South Boston, South Boston Town Council, the South Boston Police Department and many others that showed their support.

A reception was held afterwards with refreshments and tours of the apartment facilities.

Southside Outreach Group has been operating in Halifax and surrounding counties since 1995.

In 2005 and 2006, Southside Outreach Group developed and managed the construction and sale of 12 single-family homes. In 2007, the organization began a second phase for the construction of 10 additional single-family homes that were sold to income eligible persons, creating first-time home ownership opportunities.

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