Vanessa Solivan, City of Trenton celebrate the first home in the New Beginnings Housing Program

Vanessa Solivan standing in her home’s entryway is set to start renovation next week

Mayor Reed Gusciora hopes New Beginnings is the end of Trenton’s abandoned house problem.

On Tuesday, August 8th Vanessa Solivan, Mayor Reed Gusciora and community members celebrated the final phase of the pilot for the New Beginnings Housing Program with a press conference and block party at the site of Solivan’s new property. 

The event marks the end of Solivan’s three-year journey from living out of her car to owning her grandmother’s old home, and cemented August 8th as the official Vanessa Solivan day in Trenton. 

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“It all started with a dream and a vision,” Solivan said. “I wanted to own something, and I wanted to leave something behind for my children and for my family to build generational wealth.”

After years of housing insecurity, Solivan came to the Trenton City Council and demanded they find an avenue for her to own the abandoned home on 651 North Clinton Ave her grandmother used to live in. From there, Solivan and the city of Trenton began to construct the New Beginnings Housing Program.

Solivan’s case will serve as a blueprint to address Trenton’s vacant property and housing insecurity problems, and the city hopes the New Beginnings Housing Program will be the catalyst to eliminating the issues through Trenton’s community without outside developers tearing properties down or driving up prices. 

“The city has 1,000 houses in its inventory, we don’t want them because they don’t pay property taxes,” said Mayor Gusciora. “We want to match them up with residents that have the financial means to carry on, and pay property taxes and utilities.”

Solivan was approved for the funding after interviews with city officials, attendance of Isles financial literacy classes and an obstacle course of legal paperwork, which she completed with assistance from her lawyer Nancy Lottinville. 

In 2014, Mayor Eric Jackson and the City of Trenton attempted a similar project to sell off vacant properties for as low as $1. Though houses were taken up, many recipients realized they could not afford the costs of restoration and maintenance of the homes, which led to many being taken back. 

The New Beginnings Housing Program will support new homeowners throughout the acquisition of the city-owned properties, as well as with the redevelopment costs. The grant Solivan is receiving from the city is upwards of $90,000 and will be paid for through the Regional Contribution Agreement, according to Gusciora. The construction is set to start next week. 

Solivan did not have to take on a mortgage or loans for the house, and in the 15-year contract she signed with the city is an agreement that if she were to sell the home, the city would get a cut of the proceeds. 

The house in East Trenton is adjacent to the home Vanessa’s mother Zaida Solivan lives in. In the deal, Solivan received the lot in between the houses, which she has already turned into a community garden. 

“The most important thing about Vanessa, is the fact that she’s resilient, she’s consistent and she’s caring,” said Perry Shaw, the director of Trenton Community Street Team who assisted Solivan in her mission. “She represents all that is right in this city, and she is truly the definition of Trenton Making, and the World Taking.”

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