Boston Heights reborn

July 15, 1992

A miracle has occurred in Annapolis -- the rebirth of Boston Heights.

Three years ago, this low-income apartment complex was a burned out, drug-ridden hole whose landlord chose to put tenants out on the street rather than make repairs. Now, the landlord's gone and so is the slum. Thanks to the vision and cooperation of a non-profit firm, a giant mortgage banker and the government, a new community stands in its place.

Admiral Oaks was dedicated last week. Though it is designed for low-income families, with rents from $220 to $470 and federal subsidies for 63 units, it doesn't look like a low-income project. It looks like a home, with trees, flowers and a playground. The first families arrived in January. They say they never expected anything so nice.

The transformation of Boston Heights isn't just good news for Maryland's capital city. What has happened on Admiral Drive can happen in any neighborhood, anywhere.

By the time its last tenants were evicted in 1989, Boston Heights was a sick low-income housing complex. The complex' landlord, Sateesh Singh of Savage, let the apartments deteriorate until desperate tenants staged a rent strike. Even after the state attorney general investigated, residents still were plagued with leaky roofs, broken pipes and bad wiring. During the winter, some residents had to use stoves to keep warm because their apartments had no heat.

Then, in 1989, a fire raged through Boston Heights, killing five children. As city inspectors investigated, they found 758 housing code violations and threatened to condemn the place. Mr. Singh kicked out his last 63 families rather than make their apartments a decent place to live.

The property could easily have been left to the drug dealers and vandals. But the Community Preservation and Development Corp., a non-profit Bethesda firm, had other ideas.

It bought the property and invested $9 million in refurbishing it. The firm found support from the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), which put up a $4 million long-term loan, and state, local and federal governments. The state provided low-interest financing, while Washington supplied rent subsidies and the city pushed the project from behind the scenes.

The heavy demand for affordable housing throughout the region guarantees that well-planned, attractive projects, such as Admiral Oaks, will succeed. But someone has to have the vision to build them.

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