A nonprofit that streamlines the transfer of vacant properties to you
Since its first appointment in 2005, One House at a Time has helped transfer more than 430 blighted and nuisance properties to new owners to be fixed up. Here we share the stories of the people who are behind the scenes helping to rebuild Baltimore, one house at a time. The before & after photographs on this page tell just part of the story…
One House At A Time Profile: Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake
Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake provides an excellent example of how One House At A Time can become One Block At A Time and even One Neighborhood At A Time, eventually transforming communities across the city.
The local affiliate of this national nonprofit organization is applying its successful affordable housing model to transform vacant homes purchased at One House At A Time (OHAAT) auctions, along with other properties clustered in targeted neighborhoods citywide. The blighted properties that had been deemed a nuisance in the community are completely rehabbed into Energy Star-rated homes for qualified family partners.
Expanding Home Ownership
Once accepted into the program, family partners commit a minimum of 250 sweat equity hours as part of their partnership with Habitat Chesapeake. They must complete a minimum of 150 hours on the construction site, 50 hours in the organization’s ReStore retail operation, and 50 hours in Homebuyer Academy classes. In turn, they earn the opportunity to purchase an affordable Habitat Chesapeake home with a 0% interest, 30-year mortgage.
“When we acquire properties at very reasonable prices, like those we get from One House At A Time, the real benefit is that we can more readily create more affordable housing options,” says Jerry Hazelwood, Compliance Manager at Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake. “And, it’s not just affordability that OHAAT offers, they also help streamline the acquisition process and cut red tape, which is a big help.”
Habitat Chesapeake is either working on or has completed and sold nearly 400 houses in Baltimore city. All were completed with sweat equity from new owners, whose no-interest loans were capped at 30% of income. All are first-time home buyers, and many are single-parent households, said Jerry.
Transforming Jefferson Street
The success of Habitat Chesapeake is particularly remarkable in the McElderry Park community of East Baltimore, where 94 houses are in various stages of rebirth. In the 2400 and 2500 blocks of Jefferson Street, for example, 17 vacant properties have been transformed into attractive homes; 40% of these were purchased through One House At A Time. Of the seven properties transferred through OHAAT auctions for between $5,000 and $11,000 in 2010-2012, three have sold ($108,000, $112,000, and $121,250). The SDAT value for the remaining four homes ranges from $55,300 to $130,000.
This investment has had a ripple effect: six additional vacant properties nearby were subsequently renovated by owners to use & occupancy standards. Other OHAAT properties rehabbed by Habitat Chesapeake are located on Dumbarton, Kenwood, Lakewood, and McCabe. “This is the kind of synergy created by the program,” said Jerry.
Making a Difference in Pigtown
Across town, in Washington Village (also known as Pigtown), Habitat Chesapeake is having an impact with 24 gut rehabs and 18 new rowhouses completed. Two of the vacants were from OHAAT auctions: 1224 West Ostend Street (bought for $10,000, currently valued at $51,500) and 1121 Ward Street (purchased for $5,000, currently valued at $151,800). Now, they are attractive, Energy Star-rated houses, offering significant energy cost savings to homeowners because of the materials, insulation, and appliances used.
“By clustering properties in a particular neighborhood, we can create greater impact and make more of a difference,” explained Jerry.
Habitat Chesapeake plans additional OHAAT auction purchases in the future. “The One House At A Time auction process works very well,” said Jerry. “It’s great to have partners who are interested in building communities.”
One House at a Time Profile: Elijah Kelley
Less than one year after assuming ownership of the vacant property at 2040 E. Pratt Street, Elijah Kelley sold what he had transformed into a palatial home for $725,000. He had purchased the Butcher’s Hill property for $195,000 at a One House at a Time (OHAAT) auction.
“I am now looking for my next project,” said the charismatic Baltimore resident who has a “sense of duty” to his hometown, where he has purchased and rehabbed 15 properties. “The OHAAT process is simple and straightforward,” Elijah commented. “This program differentiates itself by eliminating the red tape. I found it to be a pleasant experience.”
Elijah bought his first house in a tax sale from the City of Baltimore 11 years ago. He rehabbed it, then bought and rehabbed the two houses that flanked that one. From there, he turned his attention to other parts of the city.
“I gravitate toward blocks where there is strong homeownership,” explained Elijah. “I like to work on one or two blighted properties each year. I try to go to settlement quickly and apply for permits as soon as possible.”
Elijah prefers to do his own designs, and he clearly has an eye. The historic Pratt Street property is stunning inside and out, from bottom to top, including the rooftop deck with its panoramic views. An elevator offers easy access to all four levels. “When I build, I build for longevity,” says Elijah, who changed the orientation of the elevator three times so it would be just right. “I want each house to be a place where people can stay for a long time.”
Historic preservation requirements caused some minor headaches during construction, such as changing out paint colors and deck railing material, but it was worth it, according to the builder. The resulting 10-year historic tax credit for the buyer helped clinch the sale.
Elijah Kelley has come a long way since starting life in Baltimore in a homeless shelter, after his family moved here to escape unsafe conditions. In addition to his successful property rehab business, he has a marketing company and has authored an e-book. “Baltimore is home,” he said. “It’s a very nice city, and I want to make it a better place, always.”
The following images are a collection of Before and After photos of past auctioned properties by other partners.
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