As funds run low, housing renovations are cut

September 03, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Hundreds of poor and elderly city residents may have to endure leaky roofs, crumbling bricks and shifting foundations this winter now that two of the city's three home rehabilitation loan and grant programs are out of money.

After a year of record requests, housing officials have stopped considering all but dire emergency applications for the city housing rehabilitation loans and grants. The problem was brought to light this week by the plight of 99-year-old Upton resident Helen E. Wilson, who has been unable to secure city funds to repair her West Lanvale Street home.

"It just shows the conditions of the houses in Baltimore," said Thomas H. Jaudon, the director of the Homeownership Institute, which oversees the programs. "There has just been a draw on our money this year."

Private agencies, including Catholic Charities, also report their resources being stretched.

The city administers three programs that distribute grants and low-interest loans to qualified homeowners who need home repairs. On Aug. 20, the city Department of Housing and Community Development informed applicants that the programs have nearly exhausted their funds.

Two of the programs, the Deferred Loan Program and City Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), have spent their combined 1999 budget of $1 million.

A third program, the Emergency Roof Repair Program, is limiting disbursements to stretch its funds, said city housing department spokesman John Wesley.

Until the programs' funding is replenished in February, the Homeownership Institute will only consider applications for homeowners with severe roof leaks, no heat or hot water or major electrical problems.

The funding deficiency was revealed as Wilson's family scrambles to repair her home at 810 W. Lanvale St., which was condemned by the city after the roof collapsed, snapping support beams and causing an estimated $50,000 in damage.

Wednesday, Wesley said condemned homes could not be rehabilitated, but yesterday the department reversed itself and said Wilson's home could be fixed. Housing department officials added that the family should not count on the city to help in repairing the home, which was assessed at about $11,000 last year.

"Right now, I would not put $5,000 in roof repairs on a house that does not have a wall," Jaudon said.

The family, while angered by the city's decision not to provide aid, vowed to find money for repairs. They do not wish to saddle Wilson, who will turn 100 on Sept. 18, with loans.

"It is not fair to us, it is not fair to her," Wilson's son, William L. Cephas, said of the city's refusal of aid. He said he feared his mother's health would deteriorate if she could not return home. Wilson is living with a grandson in Ashburton.

While city funds have nearly dried up, poor and elderly homeowners have options, including a low-interest state housing rehabilitation loan program and private nonprofit group assistance.

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