Friday, August 10, 2001

Buyers had ears to ground

Word of mouth pushed homestead program

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Jerry Douglas discovered the homesteading program through his cousin. Vanessa Holt was told by a friend.

        It seems most participants learn of Cincinnati's homesteading program through word of mouth.

        Mr. Douglas and Ms. Holt were among eight city residents awarded fix-up homes this week for $1 each. They must live in the house for at least three years and pay thousands for needed repairs.

        The program is a unique chance for city residents to acquire their first home, said Mr. Douglas.

        “This is great,” Mr. Douglas said of his new Avondale home near the Cincinnati Zoo. “Now I have a lot of work ahead.”

        The Homesteading and Urban Redevelopment Corp. is a city-funded non-profit corporation that mainly buys repossessed or abandoned homes in Cincinnati and awards them to city residents.

        Created by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1976, the program has helped rehabilitate about 600 Cincinnati homes in 25 years. HUD discontinued funding it in 1992, but Cincinnati has kept it alive, kicking in $1 million a year.

        “What we do is buy the dogs around the neighborhood and try to bring life back to them,” said Herman Bowling, who administers the program.

        The program is available to city residents earning $35,000 or less or to families of four earning $48,400 or less. They must pay a $5 application fee, complete a class on home ownership and have a good credit history.

        Participants bid on homes they want, and the properties are awarded through a lottery held twice a year. The next lottery will be spring 2002.

        Participants are allowed to inspect the homes they bid on and are told how much repairs will likely cost. Repairs typically run $60,000 to $80,000.

        Past lotteries have attracted 50 to 75 people vying for 10 to 15 homes, but this week's lottery attracted about 25 people for 12 homes.

        Homesteading has declined in popularity over the years as banks have offered more loan programs for first-time buyers, Mr. Bowling said.

        Participants say homesteading is the only way they could afford a home.

        For more information about the Homesteading and Urban Redevelopment Corp., call 352-1949.


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