Pioneer spirit on Pioneer Drive Revitalization in Anne Arundel: Effort in Severn aims to turn renters into homeowners.

October 07, 1997

COMMUNITIES ALONG Pioneer Drive in Anne Arundel County's Severn area have suffered for years from the indifference of absentee condominium owners. As rental units deteriorated, neighborhoods became run-down and crime-ridden. An effort is under way to capitalize on the low property values and transform this community of absentee landlords into one of owner-occupants.

Two non-profit organizations -- Homes for America and the Arundel Community Development Services -- are working to take advantage of the depressed real estate prices.

Homes for America wants to buy and rehabilitate 12 units a year and then sell them, preferably to people already living in the community. Arundel Community Development Services will counsel prospective buyers, helping them assemble down payments, upgrade their credit histories and locate appropriate financing.

Two premises undergird this plan: The homes will be competitively priced, and the neighborhood will improve and property values will rise over time. Even with the money spent to acquire and rehabilitate these houses, Homes for America believes it can price them competitively so that first-time homeowners -- with incomes of $25,000 and "decent" credit histories -- will be able to purchase these homes.

The effort won't be easy. These neighborhoods have been stigmatized, perhaps unfairly. Convincing people to invest hard-earned money in these units will be difficult when more attractive alternatives exist elsewhere in the county.

Homes for America is also approaching this project incrementally, rehabilitating a dozen units a year. Several years may pass before the community sees noticeable improvement.

Although restoring property values to these condominium units is important in rebuilding these neighborhoods, the simple investment of money won't be enough. Indifferent ownership does not a strong, stable neighborhood make.

The area along Pioneer Drive in the western part of the county can be improved only if the new owners put time and energy into community-building, along with the money they will invest in their homes. Yet the initiative of Homes for America and the Arundel Community Development Services gives this area hope, the starting point for any turnaround.

Pub Date: 10/07/97

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