Remodeling homes, rejuvenating a street Program aims to increase ownership

March 19, 1998|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Peggy Herbert loves the kitchen in the two-story townhouse she's hoping to buy. It's spacious with clean new cream-colored tile, a wide new hunter green counter top and new wooden cabinets.

The bathrooms in the Pioneer Drive home are new, too, along with the kitchen appliances, the windows, doors and siding. And if NationsBank approves her loan, Herbert will be something new in this community struggling to turn its image around: She will be a homeowner.

"I didn't think they were going to do so much remodeling," Herbert, 30, said during her first tour of the remodeled home. The last time she saw the house in the 8700 block of Pioneer Drive near Fort Meade, remodelers were still pulling up rotten floor boards and yanking out aged wooden windows.

"This entire place has been gutted out and redone. Everything is new," Herbert said. "We need a lot more [houses] like this."

Herbert is the likely first homebuyer in a program aimed at increasing homeownership along Pioneer Drive, an area built up in the 1960s and 1970s and long troubled by crime, drug dealing and declining property values.

County officials toured two townhouses newly renovated in a program that buys vacant homes in the community, renovates )) and sells them to low-income buyers at prices they can afford.

The county, the state and the Fannie Mae Foundation have poured more than $400,000 into the project, which has a goal of renovating a dozen houses this year. County Executive John G. Gary said he is working on a partnership with the state and area banks to pool between $4 million and $6 million to renovate dozens more.

Some officials and residents have pinned their hopes for a safer, cleaner neighborhood in part on the renovations and the promise of more homeowners living in the community. To them, Herbert and the remodeled homes hold the promise that a neighborhood struggling to make a comeback can be revived.

"Big things will happen in this community if we're successful in putting together more partnerships like this one," Gary said during yesterday's tour. "The way to solve problems is to have the community solve them and that comes from homeownership and pride in the community."

About 30 percent of the 318 homes in the Warfield community are owned by people who live there, according to Arundel Community Development Services. The remainder are vacant or are owned by investors who bought the homes cheap -- as little as $1, according to one real estate agent -- to rent them out.

In September, Homes for America, an Annapolis-based nonprofit housing development organization, bought two houses along Pioneer Drive with money from the Maryland Affordable Housing Trust, Fannie Mae and a federal community development block grant.

The houses cost about $20,000 each, and renovations including the addition of central air conditioning and a shed to each home cost about $30,000 more. With $10,000 for taxes, titles, transfers and other incidental costs, the organization spent about $60,000 on each.

Herbert will buy her house, an end unit with a sizable yard, for a little more than $47,000. All of the homes will be sold for $45,000 to $49,000.

"The goal is to return as much as we can to homeownership," said Trudy McFall of Homes for America, which will soon begin remodeling two more townhouses.

Arundel Community Development Services also works to groom potential buyers for homeownership. They counsel potential homebuyers, check their credit histories and help them correct mistakes that show up on their credit reports, weigh their debts, TTC assets and income, help them set up a budget to save for closing costs, and walk them through the home buying process from applying for a loan to closing.

Kathy Koch of Arundel Community Development Services said several people have shown interest in buying homes in the area. She hopes that seeing the final product will spur more interest.

Herbert, a 25-year-resident of the area, said better homes will make for a better community.

"I've seen the neighborhood when it was really nice, and I've seen it go down," she said. "It can be a nice neighborhood."

Pub Date: 3/19/98

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