Delese Spriggs used to daydream about having a home of her own. But even after cutting out luxuries and living with her father to save money, she couldn't afford a house in Annapolis.
Yesterday, the 31-year-old secretary stood on a driveway and pointed to the place where her dreams came true.
"It's perfect," she said, gesturing at a gray-shingled house withbright green shutters. "It's a good price, a good opportunity, a good neighborhood and a good interest rate."
Spriggs is moving into one of five homes built by the city in an attempt to ease its shortageof low-cost housing for first-time buyers. The single houses on Gross Avenue were sold for only $60,000 each through a joint venture between the city, state and South County Residential Projects Inc., the development branch of the non-profit Community Action Agency.
Before cutting a red ribbon to officially unveil the homes yesterday, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins gave a moving speech on why he had supported the project from the beginning.
"By the time I was in third grade, my parents had never owned a home and I had lived in seven houses in this city," the mayor said. "My parents never did own a home."
He recalled that his family once moved across the street simply to save $2 on rent. His father's parents, he said, ended their lives on a houseboat on Spa Creek.
"I could relate to living in a home where everybody was always renting," Hopkins said about his immediate endorsementof the five-home project, known as Poplar Woods.
The mayor turnedover the key to Spriggs, who gingerly jiggled it in the lock and finally opened the door with a big smile. City, state and Community Action Agency officials crowded inside to peek at the three spotless bedrooms and modern kitchen.
While acknowledging that five homes will increase the city's stock of affordable housing only slightly, city officials termed the effort "a step in the right direction."
The city has been struggling to build more affordable housing since adopting a comprehensive plan in 1985 that called for more options for low-income families, said Eileen P. Fogarty, director of planning and zoning.
"This is the first time that the city has done any single-family housing like this," she said. "It gives something new besides the traditional attached housing for people of lower and moderate incomes."
Dallas Evans, head of the Community Action Agency, called for more public-private efforts to develop housing that "your police officers, your teachers, your secretaries can afford."
Spriggs was the kind of worker he described as benefiting from the Poplar Woods partnership. The city bought an acre of land for $100,000 and gave another$30,000 to offset construction costs. The state Department of Housing and Community Development gave a $300,000 grant. And Annapolis developer Robert Gaines, head of Gaines & Sons, provided consulting and management at reduced fees.
Evans and Hopkins agreed that joint ventures would be the "wave of the future" to create more affordable housing for first-time buyers. The city and Community Action Agency alsoteamed up to develop Greenbriar, 35 low-cost town houses near Bywater Road. The development, financed partially through a loan from the city, will open at the end of the month.
In Annapolis, where housing prices have soared until even the simplest places often cost $100,000 to $200,000, finding an inexpensive single-family house is downright impossible, Spriggs said. She lived with her father to save enoughfor a down payment, but searched fruitlessly for a small home she could afford.
"It's astronomically high for a single working woman,"she said. "You can't get anything decent for under $100,000."