FRANKLIN — Angela Gentry grew up in Williamson County’s Hard Bargain neighborhood and longed to move back to raise her children.
Generations of families have called the four-block neighborhood that borders New Highway 96 West in Franklin home since the years after the Civil War.
The Hard Bargain neighborhood has 120 homes, four of which are new construction, with a fifth in progress and ground broken for No. 6.
Hard Bargain Mt. Hope Redevelopment has plans for many more generations of families to make their home in this area near downtown. The grass-roots nonprofit organization is dedicated to preserving the historic neighborhood through restoring existing homes, building new ones and providing beautification efforts to the neighborhood.
Gentry knew this is where she wanted to replant her roots.
“I grew up here my entire life,” she said of the neighborhood. We lived on Glass Street; my dad still lives here,” said the single mother of two sons, Isiah, 13, and Donovan, 10.
The neighborhood is home again.
“This is my first home,” Gentry said of the Craftsman-style house she bought in 2007. “I had wanted for so long to own a home, particularly here. I had rented elsewhere; homes are so expensive in Franklin that I seemed to have no opportunity to buy here. I thought I would either have to keep renting or move away from Franklin.”
Home for good
Then opportunity — or destiny — knocked.
“We were living in an apartment right around the corner from Hard Bargain. I drove by this house every day on my way to work and back. I had admired the house so much,” Gentry said. “Then one day I saw a picture of that house on Facebook and clicked on it, and learned about the Hard Bargain organization. I didn’t know a thing about it before that day. I read all about it and was determined to try to buy that house.”
That determination paid off. She went through a qualifying organization, GAP Community Development Resources, a HUD-certified home buyer education agency, and was eventually able to buy this house she loved.
“We love the home, and it was coming home for me,” she said.
“I want to buy a rocking chair for our front porch. I grew up with my family sitting out on the porch here in Hard Bargain; I can’t wait to be able for us.
“I have no intention of ever leaving here.”
Neither does Shanita Beech, a single mother of 9-year-old twin boys, Savionn and Solathus. She bought her Hard Bargain home in 2008.
“My grandmother and mother lived in Hard Bargain. It’s a dream come true and a blessing to be here in Hard Bargain,” Beech said. “The house is so nice and so big. I have friends and family here. I plan to stay here.”
A rich history
The land on which the Hard Bargain neighborhood was built was originally purchased after the Civil War by Harvey McLemore, a freed slave. Eight or nine years later, the land was subdivided and became home to other freed slaves.
“Historically Hard Bargain has been populated with freed slaves who were hard-working people,” said Brant Bousquet, executive director of Hard Bargain Mt. Hope Redevelopment. “As they got their freedom and could earn money and had job opportunities, it became a middle-class neighborhood in the black community. Many people and families who lived here were teachers, small-business owners, farmers, a physician, blacksmiths, craftsmen and domestic workers. Hard Bargain is rich in history, roots, culture, community and heritage.”
The nonprofit organization, which he terms a “cousin” to Habitat for Humanity, provides affordable housing but differs from the Habitat model.
“While Habitat uses mostly volunteers from churches and other organizations to build affordable housing, our new homes have all been built by Crane Builders, utilizing professional subcontractors who discount or donate their work,” he said.
Supporters make it all possible
Bousquet says several factors make it possible to offer these new homes at below market value.
“Certainly David Crane is a huge part of this. He had helped rehab homes here before he began building the new ones. He does all this work at absolutely no profit to himself or his company,” he said.
Crane says it is he who is blessed by being able to do this work.
“It’s part of walking my Christian faith to give back to the Franklin community in which I have lived and worked for the last 25 years. Helping make all this possible are subcontractors who either donate or greatly discount their professional services, folks like the Lee Co. and Grassland Plumbing,” he said.
Other volunteers, including Mike Smith, a pastor who worked his way through college and seminary doing ceramic tile work, offer their time and talents to the effort.
‘Silent second mortgage’ helps
Qualified buyers are also given the benefit of what Bousquet terms a “silent second mortgage.”
“We sell the new homes for less than market value, providing a second mortgage. If the buyers stay in the homes for 20 years, that loan is forgiven. It is part of our efforts to keep the homes under the same ownership for years to come and to prevent buyers from flipping the houses,” Bousquet said. For example if a home appraises for $150,000, it would sell for $115,000 and the silent mortgage would be for $35,000.
Bousquet said generous contributions by donors are another key factor.
“We’re a small nonprofit organization, and we certainly depend on financial gifts to help us accomplish our mission,” he said. “Hard Bargain is a proud neighborhood, and we’re proud to help keep it that way. We don’t offer a handout, but rather a hand up.”