Cleaning up neighborhoods can go a long way


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – When Habitat for Humanity rock’s the block, homes in Lansing’s Old Town get a face lift. But the community benefit goes much deeper.

“When we go into a neighborhood and work with the homeowners, everyone starts to come out of their home, they meet each other,” explains Habitat for Humanity’s Dena Vatalaro.

That’s because of sweat equity. Your home gets redone. But in return you help others in your neighborhood. And Vatalaro says friendly faces lead to friendly spaces.

“People start to understand who’s living on their block and they watch out for each other and it becomes safer.”

For Lansing Police Chief Michael Yankowski… Old Town’s safety has been on the rise.

“This is the ultimate example of how good things can happen when community and police work together.”

Lansing’s top cop says crime in Old Town has dropped off by nearly 70 percent over the last 15 years, thanks in large part to the community’s own resolve.

“Someone has to be willing to step up to the plate and say I’m willing to invest in this neighborhood.”

“Old Town has pretty low crime and I think that comes into how many of our buildings have been taken care of and renovated,” adds Austin Ashley, executive director for the Old Town Commercial Association.

The organization works to bring people into the corridor along Grand River for shopping, dining, and special events. He says the commitment will pay off.

“If things look nicer and you’ve invested more, they’re going to be assessed at a higher rate. And that trickles down into charging the higher rents and then charging more for the products.”

Habitat has a similar idea in mind for its project. Just as Old Town’s entrepreneurs have come together, Vatalaro hopes Old Town residents will find the same success.

“Neighborhoods are generally healthier and safer when there’s a neighborhood association involved and so we have the Old Town commercial association… we want to link that to a neighborhood association.”

A little elbow grease, some paint and a whole lot of energy can truly “Rock the Block.”

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