‘God blessed me’: Newberry gets first new home on Washington Street

Published 7:04 pm Monday, April 22, 2024

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On Jan. 12, 2023, Tamicka Newberry lost everything she had to the EF-2 tornado that ravaged downtown Selma.

Fifteen months later, she won the lottery to receive the first new home on Washington Street as part of a coordinated effort between the Selma Housing Authority, Black Belt Community Foundation and the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) to help the city rebuild.

Newberry couldn’t contain her excitement, as she immediately started jumping for joy and raising her hands to God in praise for what happened.

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“I just thank God,” Newberry said. “My grandma always told me, God’s not gonna put too much on you that you can’t bear. I just go one day at a time. He blessed me.”

The moment brought tears to the eyes of Kennard Randolph, president of the Selma Housing Authority.

“You know, that’s why I have these shades on because I knew that it was going to get emotional, and just to see her overjoyed, I mean, that’s what the work that I do and the work that the housing authority staff does, this is what it’s about. It’s about changing lives, transforming lives to help people become self-sufficient. So this is a part of that process, and I’m just overjoyed that we have our first homeowner.”

‘It’s a game-changer’

Newberry’s home is just the first of five homes already ready to go on Washington Street for qualified persons who will use their Section Eight vouchers to pay the low-interest mortgage on their house, helping them build equity and eventually becoming homeowners, according to Bruce Marks, CEO and founder of NACA.

Marks said his company provides mortgages that require no down payment, no closing costs and no fees with fixed interest rates below market rate and without consideration of anyone’s credit score. For these homes specifically, they are built up to code and assembled on site to keep the cost down while providing a quality, up-to-code home.

The homes range from two-bedroom homes up to four-bedroom homes depending on how much their voucher allows them to have. Those vouchers will then be used as monthly payments to apply to pay off their loans.

“It’s a game changer because someone who starts out with no wealth will end up in 15 years with over $200,000 in wealth,” Marks said. “So instead of using that to pay the landlord and generate wealth for the landlord, we use it for the housing choice recipient to generate wealth for themselves. So in 15 years, they would own it out right.”

More miracles on the way

Randolph said they have five other homes ready to go on the block and five more on the way. And he has bigger dreams than that to help out those go from being Section Eight tenants to homeowners.

“These homes are set aside for them,” Randolph said. “We have five more coming, and so we want to get those sold. The goal is to have 27 initial homes that we wanna put down, but the goal is to put up a hundred. And once we put a hundred, we may go to 200.”

Marks said this might be the first time he’s seen this type of program in a community around the nation. 

“This is a miracle –  somebody who was impacted by the tornado and lost everything and now owns a house, free and clear,” Marks said. “I don’t think this happens anywhere else. So I think this is not just a Selma story, it’s a national story.”

For Newberry, this is just a dream come true for her, her husband, children and grandchildren to have a great home with a big kitchen.

“I always wanted my own and I got it,” Newberry said. “It’s awesome. I feel good.”