Andy Parrish is the President of Wind & Rain, a for profit affordable single family home builder, which he operates from an office building he developed-the first new one built in West Coconut Grove in 40 years in the heart of the community where he builds his houses. As a long-time real estate broker, he had noticed in late 1994 that there were numerous vacant lots in the West Grove (also known by blacks and whites alike as "the Black Grove") comprised of the sixty block area bounded by McDonald Street/ SW 32d Avenue on the East, US 1 to the North and West, and Marler Avenue (where the City's St. Hugh Oaks project is located) on the South. After forming an informal joint venture with the Coconut Grove Local Development Corporation, who agreed to help him find and qualify buyers for his houses, Parrish began construction in early 1995 of his first new house at 3416 Charles Avenue on a vacant lot he had bought at a HUD sale for $6,300.
Five months later, after learning his way around the City's Building and Zoning Department, and dealing with the drug dealer living on the adjacent property who would try in broad daylight to sell drugs to people coming to look at the new house under construction, Wind & Rain celebrated the completion and sale of its first home with a ribbon cutting ceremony led by West Grove activist Esther Mae Arbrister.
HRS's Anita Bock attended and spoke eloquently of the need for home ownership as a way of lifting minority families into the middle class and improving pride in their neighborhoods. As if to punctuate Bock's remarks, shortly after the guests had all gone, the new homeowner, who is a single working mother, informed one of the drug-dealing neighbor's clients that he could no longer park on her lawn and to "get his sorry self off (her) property."
Since that day, Wind & Rain has built eleven more new homes on scattered sites, all sold to first-time homeowners who have rented most of their lives in the West Grove. One new homeowner is a nurse's assistant, another a maintenance man, another a school teacher along with a retired roofer, a construction worker, a surgical assistant, a security guard, a clerical worker and a cook at the Green Streets Cafe whose owner happily gave her a large raise to help her qualify to buy her new home.
All of the homes have been sold through the City of Miami's "soft second" mortgage programs which supply up to $40,000 of the home's financing at 0% to 3% interest . Northern Trust Bank, First Union Bank and BankAtlantic have provided the first mortgages for the homes, as well as the construction funding. The nine new homeowners all came up with a $3,000 down payment, plus closing costs and "pre-paids" averaging $4,000. Total monthly mortgage payments, including taxes and post-Andrew insurance, average $650-$750 per month.
The concept behind Wind & Rain is comprised of several simple ideas: Anybody who is working and trying to better themselves deserves a chance at the American Dream of owning their own home. And, at least in West Coconut Grove, where there are plenty of vacant lots going begging, that "home" should be a single family detached house where the family owns their own piece of dirt. Furthermore the house needs to be good enough so that over time it will appreciate in value. And finally, the mortgage "package" put together for the new homeowner has to be approximately the equivalent of rent.
Link these ideas to private enterprise and require government to facilitate, not implement, the process, and you should be able to build a lot of homes at very little, if any, net long term cost to the taxpayers. Best of all, each time you do, you literally launch another family solidly into the American middle class.