Cousins collaborate to rehabilitate Spokane homes
Chauncey Jones is branching out with his cousin Jerry Jones through A Better Way JJJ, a real estate investment company, rehabilitating single family and multi-family homes to provide affordable housing for rental and ownership.
Along with this project, he continues his work as master control operator responsible for the quality of what is aired at KHQ-TV, where he has also been a sports producer and on-air sports reporter for more than 20 years.
Growing up in Southern California, he often visited his grandmother, Hanna "Mama" Jones in Spokane, staying summers and other times of year. He spent his senior year with her, graduating from Lewis and Clark High School in 1995. He was one of six black youth in his class.
"I felt out of place. I didn't see many people like me," Chauncy said.
His grandmother's house on E. Pacific was the center for family life. He and his cousin, Jerry Jones, with whom he has started A Better Way, once dreamed of the family buying the 2500 block of E. Pacific.
"Grandma was the matriarch and inspiration, making me feel at home and feel special. She would prepare food and invite people to join the family. Her hospitality and counseling people were part of her ministry, along with her intercessory prayer ministry," he said, telling how she inspired him. "She was always praying and leading by her example of giving and giving."
Hanna came to Spokane and met his grandfather, Jesse Jones, who started what is now the New Hope Baptist Church. After Jesse died, Hanna raised their seven children alone, working as a caregiver and in other jobs to avoid going on welfare.
When Chauncey came to live with Hanna, he looked up to her.
"My mother and aunties also wanted to see me succeed. Strong women have been part of my life," he said.
Another mentor was Denise Osei at Spokane Community College (SCC). She helped him enroll, apply for financial aid, pick classes and kept him on an academic road. He studied journalism, earning an associate degree in 1998 at SCC and a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2000 at Eastern Washington University.
He began working at KHQ, where he has also been sports producer for the Gonzaga University men's basketball team for 17 of those years.
After Hanna died in December 2015, Chauncey and Jerry wanted to carry on her legacy of giving to people, mentoring them to stability.
They decided to do that by promoting home ownership. They began their effort to start A Better Way with the goal of flipping houses and building capital so they could buy more, holding some as rentals and selling others. They formed it as an LLC in 2017.
They flipped one house in 2018, another one in 2019 along with two rentals, and two more in 2020, turning zombie homes into attractive places to live, Chauncey said.
With the help of another mentor, Jim Frank, they decided to focus more on investing in affordable housing. Their target areas are East Central Spokane where they have a duplex and single family house, West Central where they have another duplex and single family house, Chief Garry where they have a single family house and Spokane Valley, where they have a duplex.
Through nonprofits and neighbors, they receive recommendations of families who need housing. Nonprofits also help by educating families on finances and holding them accountable so they can keep working and move to next steps.
He said they have worked with Habitat for Humanity, Greenstone Homes, Catholic Charities, SNAP Spokane Alliance and Family Promise.
"We want to reach people in areas where they may lose homes and be displaced because of gentrification," Chauncey said. "We are making money by improving the community, stopping gentrification and helping people with education and jobs so they can stay in the area. We want people to move from being long-term renters living month to month to building up their income and investing so they can own their own home.
"We are focusing on areas where people of color have lost their homes as investors fix their property and price them out. We are focusing on offering affordable housing" he said.
"My grandma would say, you don't need to be the whole staircase, you just need to help someone take the first step out of the mindset of poverty— depression, desperation and despair—to begin to dream and feel they may have another destiny," Chauncey said.
He knows that the people who believed in him helped him do that.
"My grandma told me to smile and hold my head up. Denise helped me see who I could become," he said.
"I didn't need anyone to move my mountains, just give me the strength to crawl over hurdles," he said. "Many in the community want help. They don't want to be left behind in the cold, but 70 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
"It will take more than Chauncey's and Jerry's vision, but we can be a model," he said.
With A Better Way, he said they collaborate with nonprofits to help people who are homeless in a shelter move into stable, dignified housing where they will not be kicked out.
"We want homeless people to become renters and renters to think of home ownership. Too many renters have slum landlords and live in houses with rodents, pests and leaks," Chauncey said.
Some build housing complexes for the poor in the same areas with other people who are poor.
His vision is to have people live in mixed housing so a lawyer lives beside a grocery bagger, a nursing student lives beside an Amazon worker, and everyone thrives because they own their own place and build equity, rather than moving and having their children change schools every three months.
"Spokane is a hot market in real estate with prices rising 15 percent or more. We need to make it possible for people to buy a home they can afford. Three years ago, we might have been able to buy a house to fix up for $100,000. Now where can one buy a house even for $160,000?
"We arrange to buy and fix houses, using city or private funds to subsidize about $50,000 so we can sell it and keep it affordable," said Chauncey. "We are not a nonprofit. We are in it to make money while building wealth for families to buy houses."
Faith is important in Chauncey's life. While his cousin Regan Watkins, is first lady of New Hope Baptist, he attends Full Gospel Mission for All Nations on East First, where his uncle Jerry Jones was pastor and has been overseer since he retired. Steve Cannon is now the pastor.
Chauncey's grandmother's faith is reinforced by his wife Aimee, the daughter of William Sterling, "a former Rev" at Calvary Baptist.
They connected while working at Hamp's Camp in summers at Zephyr Lodge on Liberty Lake. C.E. Hamp was a former pastor at Full Gospel Mission.
To inspire him, Aimee provides him with a notebook where he writes a different Bible verse each day. Phil. 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" reminds him to keep humble, as does Chron. 7:14: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven."
"Grandma always prayed for me. Prayer works," he said. "Aimee and I hold the values of the six F's: faith first, family, finance, friends, fitness and freedom."
"We are to be led by God and be stewards of God's money we are blessed to have," he said.
As a sports broadcaster with Gonzaga's team, Chauncey tells stories of players and their families—where they are from and where they are going—to humanize them.
Chauncey also volunteers with the Spokane Public Schools Office of Family and Community Engagement mentoring youth. Many boys lack a male in their lives, especially men who look like them.
"I hope to inspire them to know there is a better way," he said.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, February, 2021