Half a million dollars has been designated for housing renovations that will revitalize the neighborhood of Harwood in north central Baltimore City. Comprised of 14 blocks between 25th and 29th Street, Guilford Avenue and Matthews Street, Harwood was once home to Oriole Park and the historic Baltimore Belt Line. But like many city neighborhoods, Harwood has suffered from disinvestment and crime over the past 50 years.
Recently, however, thanks in large part to Harwood’s strong core of active and committed residents and the work of Greater Homewood Community Corporation (GHCC), the neighborhood has seen increasing potential for renewal and sustaining home ownership. GHCC was awarded the funding through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Neighborhood Conservation Initiative (NCI).
NCI awards were announced today by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and DHCD at a press conference in the Barclay neighborhood. The money comes from the National Mortgage Settlement and a separate national settlement. Seventeen community organizations and government agencies across the state were awarded a total of $16.9 million to be spent on homeowner assistance programs and rehabilitation projects.
Over the next 24 months, GHCC and local developers will use NCI funds to transform 15 vacant properties into beautiful homes that are suitable for first time home owners. GHCC will achieve its revitalization goals in a particularly cost-effective manner, producing fully gutted rehabs while using only $33,600 of NCI funds per unit.
“I am personally excited – and know my neighbors are as well – that after so many years of blighted housing, these blocks will be rebuilt and we will be able to bring in new families to Harwood,” says Ryan Parnell, President of the Harwood Community Association. “Our neighborhood is great because we have housing that is affordable as well as good school options and that market is perfect for young families!”
In order to sell properties to homeowners in an expedited time period, all of the properties will receive an upgraded level of finish and energy efficiency. Offering prices will also need to be slightly below market, probably between $120,000 and $140,000. Additional houses will undergo renovation as the initial inventory is sold off. Having four or more properties available for sale at all times will show prospective buyers that the remaining vacant properties are being promptly addressed and allow for the kind of sustained marketing effort that will benefit not just the targeted properties, but the entire Harwood neighborhood.
“We believe that this project and code enforcement will substantially eliminate the vacancy problem in Harwood, and go a long way towards addressing the entire neighborhood’s vacancy problem,” says Peter Duvall, GHCC’s Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinator.
GHCC’s Strategic Code Enforcement program along with Baltimore Housing’s Code Enforcement Legal Section target dilapidated properties. For the past ten years, GHCC has been working with residents and community leaders in Harwood to identify and abate such properties and in that time, overall vacancy in Harwood has declined by 60%.
GHCC partners with Healthy Neighborhoods and Telesis Corporation who also received NCI funds to renovate vacant houses a few blocks south, in the Barclay neighborhood.