Neighborhood opens housing center

Northwest area hopes to boost homeownership

July 10, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

The Garwyn Oaks community in Northwest Baltimore is hoping that a housing resource center opening today will increase homeownership by 30 percent and protect the historic area from encroaching blight.

The Garwyn Oaks Housing Resource Center will hold its grand opening from noon to 2 p.m. today.

Now predominantly African-American, the neighborhood was built in the early 1900s and its large, wood-framed homes with front porches and half-acre yards gave the area a small-town look.

"All you [have] to do is pluck up some of these houses and you can place them in Guilford or Roland Park," said Mereida Goodman, a former city housing department official who directs the resource center.

Since the mid-1970s, homeownership has dropped from nearly 80 percent to 43 percent, according to census statistics. The community hopes the center will help reverse a trend that has seen once-glorious single-family homes converted into apartments.

The center is in the basement of Augsburg Lutheran Church, 2610 Garrison Blvd. Organizers hope the center, formed by the Garrison Boulevard United Neighbors Association and funded through a $40,000 Community Development Block Grant administered by the city, will become a one-stop shop for people interested in government housing grants, mortgage information and details about the community.

It will be open three days a week -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- and serve as headquarters for efforts to rid the area of crime and vacant houses. Said Goodman: "We will be grinding our heels to protect what so many people worked so hard to create."

Situated north of Gwynns Falls Parkway between Lake Ashburton and Windsor Hills, the 20-block community formerly known as Mount Alto is suffering a long and steady decline. Roughly 15 percent of the houses are vacant -- compared with a city average of 9 percent -- and $80,000 homes are sandwiched between towering oak trees and neglected lots.

The federal CDBG grant is a one-year allocation. Goodman hopes to extend the grant in her goal to increase homeownership in the neighborhood by 10 percent a year during the next three years.

Garwyn Oaks is the latest city neighborhood to bypass city agencies by starting community housing centers. Others are Patterson Park, Sandtown-Winchester and Belair-Edison.

"In general, neighborhoods that are concerned about their fate have wanted to do things like this to have more say in their future," said Steve Broache, director of housing for the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, a citywide homeownership group.

Broache said other city neighborhoods have achieved 10 percent yearly increases in homeownership but have relied on real-estate agents to market an area.

Pub Date: 7/10/99

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