Housing in Memphis and in Heaven

(Urban Context 1.1)

Hope VI Revitalization Program
is a federal housing redevelopment initiative that began in 1993. The goal is to use federal money to incentivize urban areas to redevelop low-income housing projects into more attractive and sustainable communities. Memphis has just won its fifth Hope VI grant. This $22 million award will go to the redevelopment of the Cleaborn Housing project that feeds Vance Middle School and Booker T. Washington High School (south downtown area).

The project will include demolishing 460 distressed units and replacing them with 400 new apartments, 140 of which will be public/low income housing units. MHA has executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Shelby County Government Head Start program to enroll families in both the Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

The Head Start program has partnered with Porter Leath, a United Way agency, to provide home visitation services to support residents who are pregnant.

Memphis was one of only six cities to receive funding from an applicant pool of 44 cities. See http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/stories/2010/05/31/daily3.html

Blacks in Memphis lose decades of economic gain, says the New York Times.
This is a national phenomenon, not simply a Memphis thing. However, this article does an excellent job in describing the plight of many homeowners nationally. Briefly, the loss of wealth within our nation has mostly been a loss of home equity (and of homes in general). For a decade (or more) lending for the purchase of homes has been extremely easy. As a result, many people were able to borrow more and more money at seemingly low interest rates to buy homes. This easy money (creating a greater demand for homes) drove the value of homes sky high for years. Everyone seemed to win, for a while. Banks loved it because they were making money hand over fist through loan origination fees and interest payment collections. And homeowners loved it because they were able to buy bigger homes than they should have and all the while fooled into thinking their homes were great long-term investments. What is more, as their homes “appreciated” in value, homeowners were tempted into borrowing more money on their new and higher home value through second mortgages…. until it all came crashing down. This facade of irresponsibility – irresponsibility of lenders and consumers – has now wiped out trillions of dollars from bank’s balance sheets and individual’s savings. What is left is explained in the last line of the article, ““Some days it feels like everyone I know in Memphis is in trouble,” Mr. Banks says. “We’re all just begging to stay in our homes, basically.

“In my Father’s house there are many mansions (rooms)“, says Jesus. See John 14:2-4. The Christian context on housing is that there really is an after-life. This world is not all there is. There is more and better to come. There are promises given by Jesus to His people. And these promises inform the thoughts and hopes and wishes and desires of His people here and now. One such promise is that Jesus, in heaven, has prepared for us mansions – or rooms – for us to live… with Him… forever. And this promise we believe by faith. And therefore, since we believe it, we live the here and now accordingly. And the “accordingly” is that we do not put our best housing hope in a city or neighborhood or zip code or gated community or square footage or acreage, etc. For the greatest of all these does not nor will not ever compare to the housing that is to come in heaven.

So, housing in Memphis is informed by our housing in heaven. Jesus-followers are patient people who know the best is yet to come. Therefore, we can be delayed-gratification people who gladly live beneath our means knowing that all of our housing-lusts are filled perfectly, tomorrow.

And the reality of today is that this gospel-centered housing world view might actually help keep us from “begging to stay in our homes”.