Schmoke plans to apply for grant from HUD Funding potentially worth $10 million

July 12, 1996|By John M. Biers | John M. Biers,STATES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday he will apply for funding under a new federal program to construct middle- and low-income housing to replace hundreds of abandoned homes slated for demolition.

Schmoke's comments followed a news conference at which Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry G. Cisneros announced a $100 million "Homeownership Zone" program to encourage the middle class to move back to cities.

Up to $10 million will be awarded to as many as 12 cities after a competitive review, Cisneros said. HUD officials expect to receive hundreds of applications and will determine winners based on a number of factors, including whether applicants are prepared to immediately proceed with projects.

Applications are due Sept. 17 and the agency will make awards shortly thereafter.

Schmoke said he was confident Baltimore would win funding because the city is prepared to use the money. "We're probably ahead of a number of cities in that we're ready to go," he said.

According to Baltimore Housing Department spokesman Zack Germroth, the city is considering two locations for its HUD application, in East Baltimore and at Sandtown-Winchester.

About 800 abandoned homes are in East Baltimore near Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and about 700 vacant properties are in Sandtown-Winchester in West Baltimore. The properties at both sites are slated for demolition. Germroth said the HUD grant would help Baltimore construct upward of 300 low- and middle-income homes in East Baltimore, and more than 500 such homes at Sandtown-Winchester.

Appearing with Cisneros and Schmoke at yesterday's news conference were developer Ted Rouse and recent first-time homebuyer Carol Lambert of the Farring Heights development in Baltimore.

Cisneros pointed to Farring Heights as a prototype for the new program. "People want to see construction on a large scale and they want to see new homes. People won't believe the cities are coming back if we just renovate old structures," said Cisneros.

At Farring Heights, Baltimore officials were able to lower the estimated price of townhouses from about $106,000 to as little as $73,000 using federal and city funding to help pay for development and construction. Although federal funding was used in the Baltimore project, HUD has never before launched a program specifically designed to lure the middle class back to the city through new construction.

Rouse and Lambert agreed that Farring Heights -- a 70-townhouse development that borders Anne Arundel County -- has reduced crime. "The number of new homes helps to suppress the growing cancer," Rouse said.

Cisneros denied any political consideration in the agency's decision to time the grants just weeks before the presidential election.

"I don't think the governance process ought to be stopped because there's an election," Cisneros said. "This is important and cannot be put on hold."

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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