Established in 1972 by Fr. Brian McCormick and a group of action-oriented neighborhood people in the Wilbur section of Trenton, Better Community Housing of Trenton was designed to provide home ownership for the poorest of the poor – those below the 50% median income definition of “poverty."
BCH Trenton History and Timeline
1970: A young priest named Brian McCormick was sent by the Diocese of Trenton to the Wilbur section, an area characterized by multi-generational poverty and racial unrest. The directive was “to challenge racism with Gospel values.” Father Brian joined Father William Daley at Martin House, named for St. Martin DePorres, the patron saint of interracial stability. The mission of Martin House was to empower the people of the inner city to reclaim their lives and their neighborhood through education and a stable home life.
1972: As a key part of the Martin House vision, Father Brian and a group of action-oriented neighborhood people started Better Community Housing of Trenton (BCH Trenton) to provide affordable housing for the very poor. Prospective homeowners had to put in 100 hours volunteering on housing rehab in order to “show interest and gain a skill… so that they can take care of their own home. Then they have to put in 100 hours of work on their own home.” To continue the spirit of giving and of community, once they move in, new homeowners would donate one day a month for the life of their 10-year mortgage.
Fr. Brian McCormick set up the BCH Trenton Model, bringing together people, parishes, and other organizations to donate money, materials, time, and expertise. Volunteer programs were organized with university students, suburban parishes and other organizations, to help future homeowners with building and renovations. Businessmen, skilled craftsmen, professional architects, lawyers, engineers, and contractors donated time, service, and materials. Grants and other funding were obtained. (See PROGRAM MODEL tab for details.)
1974: Rehabilitation of the first house was completed, and a family qualified by BCH Trenton took possession of the home.
1981: BCHT was thriving. Twenty-five abandoned, deteriorated houses had been rehabilitated. The News Tribune (Woodbridge, October 14) said of BCH Trenton, “it is perhaps the only successful program in New Jersey resurrecting an inner city neighborhood FOR ITS OWN RESIDENTS. And it is bringing a neighborhood back to life with an astonishingly little amount of money… and little public funding…”
"The houses we’re doing, under a federally funded program, would cost $80,000. But it costs us $16,000-$18,000 to do a house, which includes $6,000 just for materials. We do every single phase of the rehabilitation. Then we sell it for $11,000. That’s $500 down and $124.46 a month for 10 years at 7 ¼ % interest. The money goes back into the corporation.” Father Brian McCormick
1990: Four new prototype townhomes were completed on Locust Street, using the BCHT model.
1992: Five new townhomes were built on the 800 block of East State Street, and 4 apartments were rehabilitated in a brownstone at 568 East State Street.
1994: Six new Girard Avenue homes were presented as a prototype to the city - to do homes for $70,000 with $45,000 in grant funds and selling for $25,000. BCHT proposed building 15 per year. The plan was never picked up by the city.
1999: Ten new townhomes on Thompson Avenue were built by BCH Trenton for $60,000 and sold for $21,000.
2003: Ground was broken on Grant Avenue for the "100 Homes for 100 Families" campaign. A huge effort was underway to coordinate contributions of land, services, and monetary donations.
2006: Six new townhomes were completed on Grant Avenue as part of the 100 Homes campaign.
2007: 100 Homes for 100 Families reached a milestone, with all 100 being sponsored and construction continuing.
2011: After overcoming many obstacles, the ribbon cutting finally took place for the 20 new homes on the 900 block of East State Street, and the park across the street was well on the way to completion.
2012: A total of 167 homes had been built or rehabilitated, including 40 of the 100 Homes for 100 Families. Father Brian retires, and Martin House closes. BCHT becomes a separate 501(C)3 nonprofit with Fr. Brian as an advisor, and Martin House's education and recreation programs are transferred to the CYO of Mercer County.
2013: BCH Trenton continues to pursue its vision of inner city neighborhoods in Trenton that are safe and stable, where people can afford to live and where residents feel empowered to work together to bring about change and raise children with values, goals, and dignity.
2014: BCHT bi-monthly community meetings bring homeowners and area residents together to work on projects and events that make Trenton a better place to live. Houses are once again being rehabbed by volunteers and by current and prospective homeowners.
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