Loans: keys to vacant city houses $8 million offered to potential buyers

September 01, 1992|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

In an effort to return some of its 6,000 vacant houses to the tax rolls, Baltimore is offering $8 million in renovation loans to potential homeowners, and officials say that a number of suburban residents were among the first callers inquiring about the program.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday announced the Vacant House Loan Program that will be operated by the Baltimore Community Development Financing Corporation.

Standing in front of a vacant, burned rowhouse in the 1600 block of E. 29th St., Mr. Schmoke described the program as a "new, quick and efficient" way for people to purchase and renovate run-down vacant properties with 30-year, 8 percent loans.

The available properties are on the city's vacant-house inventory list.

"There are great homeowners in the area trying to provide stability," Mr. Schmoke said. "Let's start the dollars flowing."

Hours after the plan was announced, the corporation received 75 calls from interested homeowners, many from Essex, Pikesville, Owings Mills and Columbia, said Dan Evans, a CDFC official. Mr. Evans said the callers, who rent in the suburbs, expressed interest in moving back to the city to become homeowners.

Under the loan program, the price of each house is usually the estimated cost of renovation, said Bill Toohey, spokesman for the Baltimore housing department. There are no income limits for prospective homebuyers, and the down payment is determined by the applicant's income. A requirement of the program is that the homeowner remain in the dwelling for 10 years.

Interested callers receive a brochure and are referred to one of the city's community housing groups that will provide counseling and help with the application process. The groups receive a $250 fee per applicant, funded by a grant from the Federal National Mortgage Association.

So far, the CDFC has received two loan applications, Mr. Evans said.

One applicant is Stephen Church, 26, a member of the Annapolis Police Department who grew up in the Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello neighborhood west of Clifton Park. The Annapolis resident said he wants to return to the neighborhood, where 64 relatives still live, and serve as a role model for young residents.

"It would be nice to be a young homeowner," said Mr. Church, who has applied for the rowhouse on East 29th Street where the mayor announced the program. "I would like to help the area's kids, to let them see something in the community other than drugs, crime and guns."

The city estimates that it will cost $52,000 to renovate the 70-year-old, three-bedroom, two-bath home that Mr. Church wants. The dwelling was firebombed two years ago and is an eyesore. The porch roof is being supported by beams, all window frames are charred and the roof cornice is gone.

The blighted dwelling was donated to the local community group by its owner and will be turned over to Mr. Church if he qualifies for the renovation loan, Mr. Evans said.

Over the last three years, the CDFC has lent about $33 million to renovate 350 vacant buildings, creating 1,058 new housing units.

The $8 million announced yesterday was raised through bond sales over the past three years after city voters approved a bond issue.

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Robert W. Hearn said the loan program "provides incentive to people who want to be homeowners. And it gives us a stake in the preservation of the community."

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