'We're really blessed': 3 families due new homes in their old neighborhood

August 27, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Allentine Stepney watched in amazement yesterday as the Mayo home she was born in and has lived in all her life was moved from the spot it has occupied for half a century to a temporary perch on another lot 150 feet away.

A federal grant has made it possible for the county to move Ms. Stepney's house and two others, and to begin construction of new units for the three families on the existing foundations.

"We're really blessed," said Ms. Stepney, who has spent 37 years in her home, which has no indoor plumbing. "We have to tote water from down the street." They must perform that chore every other day by filling 5-gallon jugs and hauling them back in a wooden wagon.

The new houses on Shesley Road should be ready for the three families to move in to by the end of October. The original houses will then be demolished. Because of zoning laws, the new homes must be constructed on the same foundations occupied by the original houses.

The federal grant of nearly $1 million was given to Arundel Community Development Services Inc., the nonprofit successor to the county's Division of Housing and Community Development, for the Home Investment Partnership program. The program provides subsidized rental housing and homeownership opportunities to moderate- and low-income county residents.

The Home Investment Partnership has given money to several Maryland counties, but Anne Arundel is the first to use the funds.

The community development agency -- which also will provide technical assistance, including arranging for all contractors and architects -- will lend $171,000 to the property owner, Dr. Tung L. Wu, a chemistry professor at Coppin State University in Baltimore, on a 15-year schedule at 2 percent interest.

In return, he has agreed to charge the tenants, some of whom have lived in their houses for more than 50 years, rent of no more than 30 percent of their adjusted incomes, less a utility allowance.

Dr. Wu said the loan program allowed him to continue to rent to his current tenants and still make his investment viable. He had been charging each family $25 a month for the one-bedroom houses since he bought the property 15 years ago.

"But I told them I wouldn't be able to continue, because I want to do something with my property," he said. Now, "these very low income people get to stay where they are."

The county opted to move the existing houses onto an adjacent lot because other housing could not be found that would keep the families in the neighborhood. "We looked up and down the peninsula, and there were no hotels down here. The closest hotels are in Annapolis," said Kathleen Koch, executive director of the community development agency. "We figured this was the best way to . . . keep them in the neighborhood."

Carol Offer, who works evenings at Mayo Elementary School doing janitorial work, appreciates the effort county officials made to keep her and her 69-year-old mother in the area. "It wouldn't have been good" to move away, Ms. Offer said. "She's been here all her life."

Ms. Stepney said she might feel a few pangs of wistfulness when her dilapidated old house is demolished. But by then, she'll be living in a brand new home with running water and indoor plumbing for the first time in her life.

"Yeah, we'll be sad," she said, with a smile and in a tone of voice that indicated she might be feeling quite the opposite.

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