A prominent city housing group will be targeting a Baltimore County neighborhood for the first time -- part of a broad campaign to halt the decline of Hillendale, community leaders announced last night.
Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore Inc., a private, nonprofit group, will offer counseling, low-interest loans and other programs to stop the flight of homeowners and the conversion of their properties to rental units.
"Hillendale, from the city line, tends to have a disproportionate number of rental properties," said County Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican. "It's generally recognized owner-occupied homes tend to be better maintained than rental properties."
The NHS initiative was announced as residents and business leaders met to discuss declining home ownership, increasing crime and poor performance by area schoolchildren.
"The neighborhood is not distressed in an urban sense," said Michael Braswell, NHS's executive director for 16 years. "But it certainly is under some pressure."
For-sale signs are as prevalent as blooming azaleas in the 40-year-old neighborhood, which includes brick rowhouses, Dutch Colonial townhouses, bungalows and apartment complexes. Mr. Braswell cites a soft real estate market as part of the reason, as well as anecdotal evidence that investors are buying houses at low prices and renting them out -- a trend that NHS intends to track.
Peggy Lombardi, 60, who has lived in a Hillendale rowhouse for 39 years, has witnessed the change. "People are running. They're running scared."
She doesn't quite understand it. "We've always had a very strong community association. We want to make sure the neighborhood stays nice."
New resident M. C. Tiralla was attracted to Hillendale, where house prices range from $79,000 to $85,000, because of its convenience and affordability. She wants to keep the neighborhood stable through home ownership.
"Right now is a critical time," Ms. Tiralla said. "It will go down if steps are not taken."
County revitalization efforts go much further than housing programs in Hillendale, an area bordered by Taylor Avenue, Loch Raven Boulevard, Perring Parkway and the city line.
Recently, police began several anti-crime campaigns, including a robbery detail and active surveillance to thwart juvenile crime, drug activity and assaults. "My goal is to get the community out of being a community in need," said Maj. Michael H. Stelmack, commander of the Towson precinct.
He and his officers also have become involved at Halstead Academy, the magnet school that focuses on math, science, visual arts and technology. They participate in a program in which classrooms "adopt" an officer. They eat lunch with the students and staff a Police Athletic League center.
And despite Halstead's low scores on statewide tests, principal Ellen H. Rappoport is offering new energy in her second year at the school. Halstead, which has received grants to boost resources, also has started a family center to encourage parents to visit the school, which has a new mural painted by 48 students.
NHS, an affiliate of a national network with offices in 150 cities, works in neighborhoods on the brink -- those it can keep from teetering over the edge, Mr. Braswell said, adding that the organization only becomes involved in communities where it has been invited. The organization has been involved since 1974 in city neighborhoods such as Patterson Park, Coppin Heights, Irvington and Govans.
"NHS's specialty is to raise the rate of owner-occupied homes and address rental properties," said Penny Johnson of the county Office of Community Conservation, which has targeted Hillendale as an area at risk.
The housing group plans to open a Hillendale-area office with three staffers by the end of next month.
Pub Date: 5/03/96