Vanessa Solivan aims to revitalize Trenton through her New Beginnings housing program

by Phineas Hogan

For anyone who hasn’t experienced Trenton’s architecture, take a trip to the West End and walk through Cadwalader Heights, and you will be astounded by the beauty of these neighborhoods. The Beautiful, lavish homes booming with color, with sweeping porches draped in sprawling shadows from the towering trees are a sight to see. You may start to picture yourself and your family living in one.

As you fantasize, however, you may be ripped away from your vision by the state of some of these houses within the vicinity. You may see many with torn roofs, boarded up windows, cracked paneling, and chipped paint. Although you can see the potential of these houses, their beauty is concealed by the scars of time. These once-majestic buildings were abandoned and left for dead; however, Vanessa Solivan saw these homes, and the upwards of 1,000 properties in Trenton just like them, and took action.

Through the Solivan New Beginnings Housing Program, Solivan has paved a path for economically challenged families to be able to restore these homes and make them liveable for them.

Solivan is a lifetime Trenton resident, who has raised her own family in the city. There was a house in her neighborhood in a condition similar to the aforementioned homes ; worn, tattered, with a tree growing out of it. This house was important to her, as it used to belong to her grandmother and she did not want to see it continue to deteriorate. “I want to help build this city up from what we have, not tear it down,” explains Solivan

An example of an abandoned home Solivan would like to renovate to make more Trentonians homeowners

She then made an appointment with City Council, where she petitioned for herself to own the property. After multiple meetings and scrutinous review by the members, she became the inaugural member of the Solivan New Beginnings Home Ownership Program. She is now committed to getting the word out about the program and bringing as much awareness to the issues of abandoned homes as possible. For Solivan, this solution is just common sense, as she notes, “I’m passing by abandoned houses, left and right. A family could be living there. It’s not rocket science!”

The New Beginnings Home Ownership Program is designed for lower-income families to be able to restore and own these abandoned properties. The process begins with choosing a house, which must be city-owned, residential, and in a redevelopment area. Then, three estimates must be obtained by contractors, and funding for these estimates may be provided by the city. The applicant can then apply on the city website, providing proper work history, financial records, and income to ensure that they could maintain the home.

Solivan has a great vision for the future of this initiative, and for the city of Trenton. By the end of the year, she hopes to have 100 of these properties filled by new homeowners, but she doesn’t plan on stopping there. She hopes this mission will spread to other communities across America, and eventually the world.

In addition to the New Beginnings Housing Program, Solivan is also active in the movement to make Trenton a lead-free city. Lead pipes are an issue, which directly affects many properties in Trenton. Vanessa Solivan is motivated by the vision of a better future for Trenton residents, herself and her children. She is not a politician, nor does she have a law degree. Solivan is a mother who is making a big impact right in her own community.

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