04/13/04 — Woman gets new house through federal program

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Woman gets new house through federal program

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 13, 2004 1:56 PM

Hattie Mae Harper's smile broke through Monday's gray gloom as Mayor Al King handed her the keys to her new home.

The sparkling new modular home stands on the same site where Ms. Harper's old home stood for 52 years, but now the 80-year-old woman doesn't have to tolerate bad plumbing, broken windows, faulty wiring and lead-based paint.

Wavering between smiles and tears, Ms. Harper said that she didn't want to cry, but she was just "so happy."

King dedicated the house to her. It was a project undertaken through a federally funded program, and he told her he hoped she would have many happy years in the new home.

Ms. Harper had lived in a small green house on Wayne Avenue, but her old home slid into a state of utter deterioration, making it unsafe to live in.

"The windows were falling out, the doors were bad, as well as the wiring and plumbing," explained Linda Bullock. Ms. Bullock administers the Community Development Block Grant program, which is funded by the Housing and Urban Development Department.

HUD awards money to carry out a wide range of community development activities directed toward revitalizing neighborhoods, economic development, and providing improved community facilities and services. The community must give priority to activities which benefit low- and moderate-income persons.

"Ms. Harper had a niece in Baltimore who knew about a similar program there, and she called the city wondering if something could done here to help her aunt," Ms. Bullock said.

Ms. Bullock investigated Ms. Harper's living conditions and found that she qualified for the program.

The program will try to restore the homes, if possible. But, if the repairs to the house would cost more than 50 percent of the value of the home, then a new house is built.

Ms. Harper's old house was worth around $17,000. Now it's worth around $65,000.

"When I heard I was getting a new home, I got so excited that I didn't know what to do," she said. "My neighbors were excited too."

Especially, she adds, the 94-year-old woman across the street.

"She wants one too."

To qualify for the program, applicants must not only meet the income criteria, they must also own their own home.

"Age doesn't matter, but they have to be a homeowner," Ms. Bullock. "The property must be deeded to them."

Monday's key exchange marked the beginning of Community Development Week. Ms. Bullock said that through the program, the city usually rehabilitates three to five houses a year city-wide.

"We have two more this month, one on Leslie Street and one on N. Virginia Street," she said.