Making dreams come true in city empowerment zone Home Buyers' Expo to offer keys to ownership

June 15, 1996|By Kaana Smith | Kaana Smith,SUN STAFF

There was a time when Wayne Gair couldn't keep a job longer than two paychecks and what few dollars he made was spent on getting high.

But after receiving his associate's degree, getting a full-time job and staying clean for the past four years, Gair knew it was time to achieve his longtime goal: buying a home.

"I didn't want to feel responsible. I felt like the world owed me a living," said Gair, who bought his Washington Village house in Pigtown in December. "Now I've got a home. I'm mature, and I can hold up my head high."

Happy endings like this are what local community organizations want to to offer Baltimore residents at the Empowerment Zone Home Buyer's Expo from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the University of Baltimore.

The Expo, funded by the Fannie Mae Foundation, is targeting potential homeowners living in or out of neighborhoods designated as empowerment zones in West, East and South Baltimore.

These neighborhoods are being revitalized under a federal program that began in 1994 to help cities plagued by crime, poverty, and unemployment. Baltimore was one of six cities given $100 million to help rebuild these neighborhoods.

The local organization responsible for empowerment zone funds hopes to increase the number of homeowners in these high-risk areas to equal the city's home ownership average of 50 percent. The national average is 60 percent. In the empowerment zone, 30 percent of the residents own their homes.

Today, representatives from nonprofit agencies and financial agencies will be on hand to provide free workshops on topics such as getting grants, re-establishing credit and working with real estate agents. Counselors will be available to help prospective buyers during and after the event.

"People don't realize how possible it is to own their own homes. We want people to know that they don't have to be rich or have thousands of dollars," said Eileen Gillan, a spokeswoman for the Expo. "This is a chance for people to open their eyes to an opportunity many thought was never possible."

Gair was one of those nonbelievers.

Earning between $17,000 and $18,000 annually and paying $296 a month in rent, he didn't think he could afford to buy a home. After tracking down information from a local community organization, he submitted an application in July and had keys to his new two-bedroom home six months later. Gair now pays $316 per month on his mortgage.

"I feel secure now because I know I got a place I can come home to. Something that nobody can take from me."

Pub Date: 6/15/96

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