Flint resident makes it known with unusual sign that her house has lead

"House for sale. Lead included." Flint woman says the water crisis is decreasing her property value, and she wants everyone to know it. (Sharisse Thompson - WEYI/WSMH)

FLINT, Mich. (WEYI/WSMH) - Back in 1975, Estelle Holley put her life savings toward buying a home on East Murango Avenue on Flint's north side. The house was gutted. It only cost her and her then-husband $5,600. Holley, who is a retired GM employee, has spent tens of thousands of dollars toward the upkeep of her home. Despite the upgrades, Holley says her four-bedroom home is pretty much worthless, due to Flint's lead water crisis. Holley says her home is estimated to only be worth $5,200.

Holley, whose home is surrounded by vacant lots, can't afford to move. She is 66 years old and says her property value started to shrink about two years ago, after the City of Flint switched to the Flint River for its drinking supply. But because the pipes were not properly coated, the corrosive river water leached lead into the pipes, which contaminated the water supply with lead.

While Holley doesn't plan to sell her home, she isn't going to sit quietly either. Back in March, Holley ordered and put up two mock for sale signs that read, "Flint home for sale, lead included." Holley says she knows even if she tried to sell her home it would be nearly impossible. That's why she displayed the signs on her home as a reminder that Flint residents are still struggling to deal with the water crisis. Along with living on bottled water and suffering from rashes, Holley is now worried that the water crisis is going to worsen the city's housing market.

"Somebody hear my cry. Somebody feel what I feel. So, that sign was created out of anger. I'm angry about my property value. Nobody is going to come and buy this house. I can't move into a retirement home. This is my retirement home," says Holley.

Earlier this year, Mayor Karen Weaver launched her Fast Start Program to replace all the lead pipes in Flint. So far, around 35 homes in the city have had lead pipes replaced. Most recently, the city started taking bids from contractors to finish the job. Mayor Weaver hopes to have all of the lead pipes in the city replaced as soon as possible. The next round of lead pipe removal is expected to get started on July 1.

As for Holley, she says over the years she has watched her neighborhood be reduced to blight and decay. Just a few homes stand on Holley's block. Across the street is a vacant lot overgrown with grass and weeds. Holley is hopeful that her city will make a comeback, but with the water crisis she's not so optimistic.

"You drive around and you cry. The houses look like people put salt and pepper on them and ate them up. Nobody is here to reclaim the city," says Holley.

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