Gospel singers, town and county officials and community members gathered Thursday for the Northside Neighborhood Initiative Celebration. There was singing, laughing and some offered memories of what Northside used to be, and what they hope it will be in the future.

Longtime resident Matthew Farrington said his house used to belong to his uncle before he passed away.

“He had told me awhile back, he said ‘Whatever you do, don’t ever get rid of my house,'” Farrington said. “And thank the Lord, I still have it after 20 years.”

Creating a permanent home for residents like Farrington is the purpose of the initiative. UNC granted The Northside Neighborhood Initiative (NNI) $3 million in March 2015. The University, with the help of the town and Self Help Credit Union, aims to help long-time residents continue living in their homes, and attract new neighbors who would like to do the same.

Habitat for Humanity joined the celebration Thursday to raise a wall for a new home for these new neighbors.

“These three homes here are single family homes and they will be homes to three single moms,” said Jennifer Player, Director of Development and Administration for the Orange County branch of Habitat for Humanity. “In total there will be seven children who will be living in these three homes ranging from ages 2 to 19.”

Player said, the new residents for Northside aren’t necessarily new.

“All three of the women who are going to be living here have a connection to this neighborhood,” she said.

Each new resident went to school at Northside, had family who lived or live in Northside or used to live there themselves.

State Senator Valerie Foushee grew up in Northside, and also spoke at the celebration. She said she’s excited to see more permanent homes start to take over the neighborhood.

“Today we’ll have a chance to see the result of a transformative process,” she said. “A transformation from dreams to hope, from hope to promise, and from promise to reality for innumerable families.”

Farrington said, he wants his home to stay in his family. So that the house, then the neighborhood, will feel like home.

“We’re really trying to pass that on to our neighbors and families,” he said. “We want to keep our homes in the neighborhoods if we can… make our neighborhood a neighborhood again.”

In the first year of the initiative, other accomplishments have included acquiring 15 properties, constructing 12 affordable housing units and reduction of noise complaints by 60 percent. This is the first time in 30 years that the African American population in the area has risen.