VIDEO: Tyler man, 76, marks a rebirth in new house

Published on Tuesday, 29 April 2014 23:16 - Written by Kelly Gooch, kgooch@tylerpaper.com

Zelton Harvey was living in less-than-optimum conditions.

His home was in disrepair — the flooring and ceiling were torn out — and it was not handicapped accessible to fit his needs, his niece, Lamesa Bell, said.

But the 76-year-old now has a new two-bedroom, two-bath home that he can call his own. The home, at 1512 W. Nutbush St., is 1,185 square feet and features a 1,630-square-foot carport.

On Tuesday afternoon, Harvey received a key to the home, which, according to a news release, was reconstructed under the city’s Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Assistance Program using federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Gary Swindle, Tyler police chief and key leader over the city of Tyler Neighborhood Services Department, described Tuesday as “a big day in Mr. Harvey’s life.”

“This is always something very special to us to be able to do ...” he said.

Tyler City Councilman Ed Moore echoed Swindle.

“This is a great day for Mr. Harvey,” he said. “I was talking to him earlier, and he said this is one of the best days of his life, and I understand that.”

Moore said owning a home is one of the greatest things for an individual or a couple to do.

“It gives you security. It makes you feel that you’re part of your community because you become a taxpayer, and being a taxpayer means a lot because you contribute to your city and your community,” he said. “This is a great thing to do. It’s something that we need to continue to do.”

After Moore presented Harvey with a key, Superintendent Melton Timmons, with Jones Valley Community Church of God in Christ, said a blessing — a ribbon was cut and Harvey was able to check out his new home.

“I’ve been over there (next door) in that little bitty house, and this house is great,” Harvey said as he made his way around. 

Harvey’s nurse, Lisa Williams, said the new house is better for Harvey’s health, and Harvey’s niece, Bridget Mask Bell, said it means a lot that her uncle has somewhere safe to stay.

“Words can’t even explain. It’s a blessing. You hear about stuff like this happening to people. For it to actually happen to somebody that you know, that means a lot to you. … It’s so unreal. It lets you know that God, he’s able to do anything,” Bridget Mask Bell said.

The house that Harvey lived in for 19 years was deemed “not feasible for rehabilitation” by the city’s Neighborhood Services Department because of its “poor structural condition and the extensive repair needs,” according to the city. However, the house was eligible for replacement, and the new home was built to accommodate Harvey’s disability, said Brenda Johnson, manager of Neighborhood Services.

“I am so excited about moving into my new home.  I am looking forward to living in a house that is built to accommodate my disability,” Harvey said in a prepared statement. “I will be able to use my wheelchair with more ease and I am really excited about my ADA designed bathroom. I really appreciate all of the work that the city employees are doing in north Tyler and I know that my neighbors do also.  I am very pleased.”  

Harvey’s new home is the second reconstruction project to be completed this year out of the eight that are scheduled, according to the Neighborhood Services Department.

Ms. Johnson said in a statement that the program “is an essential part of the city’s overall approach to revitalizing neighborhoods.”

“It not only directly helps the family that owns the new home, but it improves the surrounding neighborhood by removing a substandard structure and replacing it. We expect that the city’s efforts to improve these neighborhoods will result in new and additional private investment and construction in these areas,” she said. 

According to a news release, eligible low-income homeowners may receive rehabilitation or reconstruction. In addition to income requirements, the residents “must also own or be purchasing their home, live in a ‘target area’ that is designated annually by the City Council, be current on their property taxes, and have homeowner’s insurance” to be eligible.  

“The funds provide assistance to bring existing substandard residential properties into compliance with current local housing and building codes,” the release states. “If the house is determined to be beyond repair, then the existing home is demolished and replaced with a newly constructed home that provides safety, comfort and security, while being modest and attractive in appearance.”