Why Buying Back The Block Is A Passion Project For HGTV's Mike And Kyra Epps

Stand-up and film comic Mike Epps and his TV producer wife Kyra Epps turning into an HGTV couple might not have been on many people's 2023 Bingo card, but for the "Next Friday" actor, it makes perfect sense. The couple launched an HGTV show based in Mike's hometown of Indianapolis in November 2023, but their motivation for starting the series goes far beyond their love of home renovation. For the Epps family, this passion project is incredibly personal. 

"This was about holding onto legacy, this was about holding on to what we come from," Mike said of his series "Buying Back the Block" to the IndyStar. And indeed, the Epps' show is aptly named. After renovating his Indiana childhood home, Mike and Kyra returned to the neighborhood to revitalize six more properties, including his childhood neighbor's home and the house where his grandmother, Anna Walker, lived. 

In addition to honoring the Epps family legacy, the two entertainment vets want to bring affordable housing to the Indianapolis community — and a bit of fun, too.

The seeds for the Epps' HGTV project were planted back in 2003

Comedian Mike Epps began renovating his childhood home long before the plans for this HGTV show "Building Back the Block" were finalized. He posted a photo of the completely revitalized property to Instagram in August 2020, writing, "A lot of people claim a Hood a city or a block but don't own it this is my block in Indiana the before and after." Epps wrote that he had friends who succumbed to the violence and drug activity that led to the neighborhood's decline over the decades, calling his childhood home "a full crack house in the 80's and 90s."

Although the exact addresses of the Epps' renovation sites aren't disclosed, USA Today reports that Mike grew up around 21st Street and Carrollton Avenue. Epps' wife, Kyra Epps, explained to the IndyStar that her husband bought up properties in the underfunded neighborhood back in 2003 for cheap. As the Indianapolis neighborhood slowly started to gentrify in the late aughts and early 2020s, the couple wanted to reaffirm their 60+ year legacy on the block. 

"This is not just that we're fixing the house and we want to sell it and flip some money," Kyra told IndyStar. "We would never come back to Indianapolis and do that. You're going to see us really make decisions based off of his grandmother, and how much she poured into it."

Mike and Kyra Epps want to bring affordable housing and fun back to underserved communities

In a "Buying Back the Block" video posted to HGTV's Instagram in October 2023, Mike Epps revealed that the six homes he bought from his childhood Indianapolis block were houses from which his family had gotten evicted. Epps said that after pursuing a successful comedy career, he felt compelled to return to his native city. He and his wife, Kyra Epps, plan to do far more than aesthetically revamp Mike's old stomping grounds.

For Mike, his decision to buy back his block fulfills a promise. While on "The Daily Show" with Wanda Sykes, Mike said: "I told my mother, I said, 'When I get famous, Mama, if I ever get famous, I'm gonna go buy all them houses we got kicked out of. So, I went back and bought all them houses." Mike said that he hopes to make the renovated properties affordable for community members so they don't have to deal with the same struggles he had as a child.

Kyra told IndyStar that she and her husband want to instill lasting change in the community by educating residents on property taxes, homeownership, and the legacy a home can create for a family. But, of course, it isn't all hard work and taxes. The couple also purchased an old nightclub spot (Faces, for any Indy locals) that they hope will help revamp the area's nightlife scene.