Brooklyn and Curtis Bay community groups are organizing to help reverse a tide of home foreclosures and to encourage homeownership in the area.
The Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition, a nonprofit neighborhood improvement group, held the area's first housing fair Saturday to teach renters about home-owning opportunities in the area. The goal was to encourage residents, rather than investors, to purchase homes, coalition members said.
Representatives from 12 federal, state and private agencies spoke to residents about home-buying initiatives, credit and mortgage programs, health insurance and neighborhood safety programs.
"We wanted to get people into buying houses and stop the renting frenzy," said Linda Bardo, president of the Community of Curtis Bay Association, a group that works with the coalition. "You like to see someone buy a home and move in right away. That's the purpose of this."
Organizers estimated that about 100 residents turned out for the fair, fewer than they had hoped for.
"We were expecting about 300 people," said Carol Eshelman, the coalition's executive director. "But it's our first time. The community is just learning about us."
Representatives from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development spoke those who attended. Visitors also could tour six HUD-owned houses in the area that are available with $1,000 down payments.
"I really want to own a home," said Etta Johnson, who toured the HUD homes. Johnson has rented her Brooklyn house for 16 years. "I want something that is mine. I'm tired of paying people rent."
Coalition members and housing officials say that too often, investors will buy homes in the area and rent them to people who can't always afford the payments.
The coalition was formed in 2000 to combat housing and economic problems in the area. The group began planning the housing fair in January.
Paul T. Graziano, commissioner of the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development, and state Sen. George W. Della Jr. also spoke with visitors and organizers at the fair.
"What I see is people in a community taking charge, and that's what we really need in this city," Graziano said.
Coalition President Richard Anderson says the group plans to have at least one more housing fair this year: "We plan on doing this frequently."