Downtown Washington is experiencing a revitalization
Posted at 9:40 a.m. Wednesday, March 1, 2023
In a few weeks, the front doors of a new home built as part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program will be thrown open to welcome the owners, their friends and family members.
The Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) is a partnership between the Washington Housing Authority and the City of Washington. Its goal is to restore the area of the city from East MLK Jr. Boulevard to 9th Street so that middle- and low-income families can achieve homeownership.
“You might look around and think this area has always been run down, dilapidated, but at one time it was a perfect mix of privileged and underprivileged living in homes that were owned,” Alice Sadler, chairwoman of the Washington Housing Authority’s board of commissioners. said of the area at the corner of Seventh and Gladden Streets.
When the Washington Housing Authority moved into the area in the 1960s, it brought public housing with it. As a result, Sadler said, streets were paved, sidewalks were built, plumbing and electricity were added to homes, and thermostats replaced wood and coal heaters. Sadler, a Washington native, grew up near Gladden Street and remembered when Seventh Street was paved. All the children in the neighborhood came to skate on the newly asphalted street, she shared.
NRP hopes to redevelop the area by building houses and buying existing houses to renovate them.
The program began with the construction of a house at the corner of Seventh and Gladden Streets. Horton Contractors is building a 1,200 sq. ft. home. ft. which will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It is estimated at approximately 180 thousand dollars. The City of Washington provides a loan to the housing authority to help pay for the construction of the home. The housing authority immediately reimburses the city, Sadler explained.
The lot on which the house is being built is owned by the City of Washington and the Washington Housing Authority. Three more houses are expected to be built on the same plot. The mission is to not only offer homeownership to middle- and low-income families, but to add more affordable homes to Washington.
Those eligible for home ownership under the NRP can apply for a range of benefits to help them maintain their home ownership. There are several options for help with rates, loans and down payments. The down payment can be $50,000 or a quarter of the total loan amount. In addition, qualifying homeowners can receive a mortgage credit certificate, which is a special tax credit that reduces federal income taxes each year. People who have been homeless for the past three years can qualify for a loan in conjunction with the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency’s down payment assistance program.
“NRP applicants must be current residents of the City of Washington, Beaufort County, or residents of Low Income Public Housing (LIPH) owned and operated Washington Housing Authority (WHA) participating Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program through WHA, or currently resides at Clifton Meadows, a USDA property owned and operated by Washington Housing Nonprofit Inc. (WHNI),” according to the website of the Washington Housing Authority.
“People talk about affordable housing all the time. Well, every home is affordable to someone, even in Moss Landing,” Sadler said, “that we’re looking at low-income families. Most loan agencies that help low-income families have homes between 1,200 and 1,300 square feet, she explained.
Asked how families would pay for homes built under the NRP, Sadler said they would receive a regular loan for low-income families or individuals. They can get a down payment of $50,000 and finance the remaining $130,000. Tenants who live in rental properties managed by the housing nonprofit Washington Housing Authority can turn in the voucher they use to pay rent to help pay their mortgage if they can prove they have good credit and a solid work history.
The Washington Housing Authority is not interested in “putting up three or four new houses and moving on,” Sadler said. Instead, they want to help the entire community, from buying a house to beautifying the area, either by demolishing houses or buying houses that can be renovated. Sadler said she and her husband, Washington Mayor Donald Sadler, walked the streets of the downtown area and listened to residents who said they were “thrilled” to hear the plans for the revival.
“There are people who like this community, who like this area, and once they know we’re rebuilding the whole area and not just putting a bunch of new houses in the middle of what seems to be falling apart around them, then it starts to send a different message , then they’ll get a different picture of what it’s about,” Sadler said.
As for the other homes that will be built, Sadler said the housing authority doesn’t anticipate any problems getting people to move in. If you’ve lived here, you know it’s not that big a problem with society, unless you don’t mind living next to public housing.’
Sadler said she feels a “real spiritual connection” with the person who will own the first home built because they are moving out of public housing to own their first home. Where they now live is Sadler’s childhood home and where she grew up.
To see her former neighborhood reborn is to see the hope she had as a child come true. “It means our urban people, our low-income people, wherever they live, making them feel like they deserve a new home,” she said.
Sadler said the area around Seventh Street is expected to be revitalized in the next couple of years. The program will expand as long as funding is available.