100,000...and counting

Homes: The Enterprise Foundation celebrates its milestone and its mission of helping low-income people buy houses.

September 22, 1999|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

The $120,000 townhouses in Columbia. The new pink-and-mauve townhouses with garages in Baltimore's Druid Heights. More than 2,000 homes in and around Portland, Ore.

The Enterprise Foundation has made them all possible, quietly building a nationwide network of loans, partnerships and grants to create 100,000 homes for low-income people.

Yesterday, the Columbia-based foundation, a legacy of the late developer James W. Rouse, celebrated that milestone at 14 sites across the country. One of them was the Druid Heights section of Baltimore, where Enterprise has worked with Druid Heights Community Development Corp. to build a group of 33 townhouses called Brunt Manor.

Enterprise's 100,000th home was a modest frame house in a neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles, painted a sunny yellow. But to Victor Archaga, a job training and placement specialist with the Watts Community Action Coalition who was able to purchase the house, it was his first.

"Today is a very special day for my family," Archaga said via satellite feed as he prepared to move in. Behind him, the face of his wife, Hermilia, contorted, her smiles competing with her tears.

Rouse and his wife, Patty, started the foundation in 1982 after two Washington, D.C., community activists asked them for help to revitalize a dilapidated hotel.

Rouse didn't think it could be done. When the activists proved him wrong, he became convinced that neighborhoods could rehabilitate themselves, given the right technical expertise and financial backing.

"He often talked about how they showed him the way it could be done," Patty Rouse said yesterday.

Since then, Enterprise has opened 14 offices across the country and raised $2.3 billion in loans, grants and equity investments from more than 170 corporate investors through Enterprise Social Investment Corp.

In Baltimore, Enterprise has worked during the past eight years on the revitalization of Sandtown-Winchester, where hundreds of homes are being renovated and sold by the city, several community development groups and the foundation. Enterprise and its partners have helped create 750 housing units in Columbia, the foundation's home base.

"They've always been at the cutting edge of what the next important evolution in our industry is," said Craig Nickerson, vice president for community development with mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which is working with Enterprise to develop housing and flexible mortgages for day care providers in Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Enterprise has created a large web of subsidiaries and community partnerships to accomplish its purpose. Enterprise Social Investment Corp. manages 11 housing funds, with projects in 90 communities across the country.

Like Local Initiatives Support Corp., a community development go-between started by the Ford Foundation, Enterprise has accomplished much of its work through the Community Reinvestment Act, an anti-redlining law that encourages banks to invest in minority communities.

Peter Dreier, a professor of public policy at Occidental College in Los Angeles who was Boston's housing director for nine years, said the Enterprise Foundation's most effective role has been demonstrating that the problems of housing the poor aren't intractable. The foundation has brought together neighborhood community development groups, which know their residents best, with some of the nation's most powerful banks and mortgage companies.

"The Enterprise Foundation has brought government and business leaders to sit at the same table with a lot of community leaders in neighborhoods," Dreier said. "By doing that, they've expanded the size of the table."

F. Barton Harvey III, chairman and chief executive officer of the foundation, said the job of creating homes is far from done.

"One hundred thousand more are coming," he said.

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