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Profiles in Impact: Alvin Johnson, Birmingham, Alabama

Oak Hill project in Birmingham’s historic Belview Heights neighborhood designed to provide opportunities for building generational wealth and community revitalization

Meet Alvin Johnson, GROWTH by NCRC’s agent partner at its new Oak Hill community in Birmingham, Alabama. Apart from a seven-year career in the US Navy and two years working in quality control for Firestone in Georgia, the Birmingham native has spent his life serving residents of the city and throughout Alabama. Since 1978, Johnson has worked with individuals, investors, developers and city officials interested in Birmingham’s many opportunities for homeownership, revitalization and development. 

“My goal has always been helping people even when it’s the hard thing to do,” Johnson said.  

Licensed as a Realtor® in Alabama and Georgia, Johnson and his team provide everything from access to capital to listing services, property management and buyer education programs. Since 2006, Johnson has also developed and built four subdivisions in the city. These are just a few of the reasons GROWTH selected Johnson to represent its Oak Hill community, a new affordable housing development that will feature 28 detached, single-family homes.  

GROWTH is an initiative of NCRC that builds and renovates affordable homes in 19 markets.

GROWTH’s Oak Hill project fills a significant gap in housing. Given Birmingham’s recent revitalization, housing stock in Birmingham has become too expensive or is too dilapidated for many would-be buyers.  

“Almost all of my folks want to stay in Birmingham in their neighborhood. They don’t want to leave family and friends, schools and amenities,” Johnson said.

A strong job market has driven demand for housing in the city. Home to Mercedes Benz, U.S. Steel, Amazon, University of Alabama Medical Center, Birmingham is also a transportation, engineering and tourism hub. 

“More people are moving here every day and more businesses are taking advantage of the city’s business council and small business support services,” Johnson said. “Oak Hill meets a need that must be filled. People in the community are excited about it—the dream of homeownership.”

Seven of the 28 homes are currently under construction with four already under contract.    

“This is a close-knit community with a deep sense of pride so it’s truly satisfying to see people who never thought they had a chance finally own their own home,” Johnson said.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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