CREATED NEW HOME FOR LEGALLY BLIND HOMEBUYER    

In its time the house on Topeka street was an asset for the neighborhood.  Built in 1920, this front-gabled Craftsman bungalow duplex had dual gabled porches that were peaked at the ridge in "Oriental" fashion.  Lately, it fell into decline and disuse turning into an eyesore for the community. 

Vacant and boarded-up, the taxes went unpaid for 5 years.  It was in January 2015 when Mennonite Housing became involved and began the acquisition process utilizing the City of Wichita's Boarded-Up Homes Program.  This program addresses blighted housing conditions in the City's Local Investment Areas.  In August, 2016 Mennonite Housing acquired the properety through its Neighborhood Homes Program and immediately began the demolition/new construction process. 

Mennonite Housing is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which serves the City of Wichita as well as Sedgwick, Harvey and Butler counties in Kansas.  They offer a variety of programs all with the same goal: to provide decent, safe, affordable housing for qualified individuals, elderly and handicapped citizens in the community.  The programs range from senior housing, minor home repair and repairs for handicapped homeowners including assisting elegible persons purchase houses which have been built or rehabilitated by Mennonite Housing.

Well before the acquisition of the Topeka house, Mennonite Housing began working with Sandra Wilkinson.  She had heard about the home onership program through a friend and was interested in buying a new home.  For Sandra, it had to be a new home.  Buying an existing home that would require any remodeling or home repair would be difficult for her.  She is single and legally blind.  Her constant companion Rex, is her Seeing Eye dog.  They will live together in her new home. 

Sandra is originally from Pennsylvania where she lived with her Mom, two younger brothers and two older sisters.  Recently she worked as a caregiver in Ohio for 5 1/2 years before moving to Wichita to work for Envision.  She has been employed there as a machine operator since June 2014.  Envision is a unique company.  Almost 50% of their 400 employees are blind or have low vision making Envision the nation's second largest employer of individuals who are blind or have low vision.  They strive to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research.

In addition to counseling Sandra towards getting approved for permanent financing, Mennonite Housing was able to leverage several resources.  Being a first-time homebuyer she was eleigible for both the City of Wichita's Homeownership 80 Program and the grant program with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka.  These two programs provide down payment and closing cost assistance.  One of the requirements for these programs is attendance and completion of a home ownership training class which Sandra completed as part of her counseling with Mennonite Housing.  The location of the new home is in a targeted census tract which makes it eligible for a Mennonite Housing Foundation grant.  It is typical for Mennonite Housing to leverage resources as much as possible for all their homebuyers.

Sandra's new home is energy efficient.  It has two bedrooms and a bath on the main level with living room, dining room, kitchen, new appliances, a programmable thermostat with oversized numbers and a washer and dryer.  There is an attached 2 car garage, fenced in backyard and an unfinished basement.  Handrails were provided at the front and back entrances.

Sandra's new home on Topeka Street will have a positive impact on housing values and increase stability in the neighborhood.  The impact on Sandra is evident in her response to the new home -- "It is a blessing to have a new home.  And it's great for Rex also because the backyard is fenced".