Thousands offered on closing costs for city homes

Healthy Neighborhoods also offers $25,000 grants

March 24, 2012|By Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun

Shandra Brown has a big goal: to buy a house before her 21st birthday in September.

On Saturday, she came to Belair-Edison with her mother, Rene, for a Healthy Neighborhoods event that highlighted resources available through the nonprofit, including a $26 million federal stimulus grant to bolster home ownership and strengthen communities.

"I wanted to give this gift to myself," said Brown, a Towson resident, full-time student at the Community College of Baltimore County and part-time phlebotomist. "Of course there's money involved, but there's a way of doing everything."

Healthy Neighborhoods can match interested homebuyers with $6,000 toward closing costs on one of 100 renovated, energy-efficient homes, or $25,000 grants on homes that have been foreclosed on, subject to a short sale or abandoned.

Qualified individuals can earn up to $71,900 a year; the income cap rises with each additional family member.

The money is available for homes in seven Baltimore communities: Belair-Edison, Better Waverly, Coldstream Homestead Montebello, Ednor Gardens, Patterson Park/McElderry Park, Old Goucher and Reservoir Hill.

Pamela Brown, 46, and her boyfriend, Curtis Crowner, 52, left an open house at 3309 Shannon Drive, across from Herring Run Park, dreaming of the possibilities. Brown, a housekeeper, and Crowner, who works in manufacturing, are eager to get out of their Cedonia apartment. This would be their first time buying a home.

Crowner said the program is a great option for those who are working to make ends meet and who don't typically qualify for government assistance.

"We don't have much to take advantage of," he said.

The 1,624-square-foot house, selling for $125,000, was renovated by St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, one of Healthy Neighborhoods' development partners. The partners fully renovate the homes to meet energy-efficiency standards and sell them at significant discounts.

Pamela Brown said the house — with refinished hardwood floors and restored period features such as glass doorknobs and beveled mirrors on closet doors — was the nicest she'd seen in the eight or nine months the couple has been looking.

"I'm ready to move in," she said.

Mark Sissman, president of Healthy Neighborhoods, said the nonprofit will provide outreach programs such as Saturday's home-buying event about once a month through the fall. About 150 people turned out Saturday.

"The good news about the real estate market is, in these neighborhoods, good homes are affordable," Sissman said.

Marian Harvin of Windsor Mill said she's concerned about safety in the city but thinks the Healthy Neighborhoods programs are too good to walk away from. The 24-year-old bookkeeper at Catholic Charities, who has started her own accounting firm on the side, said she'll fully vet the neighborhood before she makes a move.

"I think jumping on this program is a great opportunity," Harvin said.

The program

Healthy Neighborhoods, a nonprofit designed to forge stronger communities, is using a $26 million federal stimulus grant to provide financial aid to homebuyers in seven Baltimore neighborhoods. They are Belair-Edison, Better Waverly, Coldstream Homestead Montebello, Ednor Gardens, Patterson Park/McElderry Park, Old Goucher, and Reservoir Hill.

Buyers can qualify for $6,000 toward closing costs on renovated houses with energy-efficient upgrades or $25,000 grants for a home that has been foreclosed, subject to a short sale, or abandoned.

Individuals can qualify if they earn up to $71,900 a year. The income cap for couples is $82,200, $92,450 for a family of three and $102,700 for a family of four. The cap rises by about $10,000 for each additional member of a family.

Buyers must live in the home to participate.

For more information, call 410-332-0387 or visit

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