New homes rise where shacks stood

December 22, 1993|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

There's no place like home for the holidays. And thanks to a $1 million federal grant, three Mayo families will be celebrating in new homes this Christmas.

"It's the best Christmas present I could ask for," said Darlene Quarrels, 36, surveying her new three-bedroom home on Shesley Road yesterday.

For all of her life, she had lived in a three-room shack with no indoor plumbing, heated only by a wood stove. Now, on the site of that old home, she lives in a new, cozy three-bedroom house with her brother and daughter. Dishes, candlesticks and plants given to her at a recent housewarming decorate the home. On one wall is a plaque: "God bless our home."

"It's something I had prayed for," said Ms. Quarrels, a janitor at Mayo Elementary School.

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

The community development agency -- which provided technical assistance, including arranging for all contractors and architects lent $171,000 to the property owner, Dr. Tung L. Wu, on a 15-year schedule at 2 percent interest.

The money allowed him to build the homes. In return, he agreed to charge the tenants rent of no more than 30 percent of their adjusted incomes, less a utility allowance.

The new houses were constructed on the foundations of the old ones, which had been moved to an adjacent lot in August. The inhabitants continued to live in them while their new homes where being built.

MA The families moved into the new homes on Dec. 10, and the old

houses were torn down Monday.

"I was crying yesterday," said Allentine Stepney, who had lived in one of the shacks with her father, Amos Jones Jr., all of her life.

Although she loves her new home, she said she still has fond memories of the old home where she was reared.

But she said she won't be lugging 5-gallon jugs of water to the house, chopping wood for the stove and having to use an outhouse.

"I only wish my mother could have lived to see it," Ms. Stepney said.

Although all of the families will have to pay more than the $24 monthly rent they paid for the shacks -- Ms. Stepney, for example, will be paying $62 -- all said their new rates are affordable and worth it.

Anna Mae Thomas, 69, who had rented one of the shacks for 56 years, showed off her new home yesterday, which she has decorated with a small Christmas tree. "It's wonderful," she said. "I think it's helped me to live at least five years longer. Maybe 10 years."

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