PARKERSBURG - City officials hope a half dozen new homes will sow the seeds of change in a targeted neighborhood.
About four years ago, the city received $1.3 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by way of the West Virginia Development Office. That money was used to build six houses between Spring Street and St. Marys Avenue and discount the asking price up front to make them affordable to low- to middle-income families.
"The city's never taken on this big of a project in terms of new housing," said Rickie Yeager, Parkersburg development director.
City of Parkersburg housing inspector Ed Bonar stands outside of a house on Covert Street the city built with federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
Each house is a three-bedroom, two-bath structure with between 1,200 and 1,300 square feet of space, said Ed Bonar, city housing inspector. They have new energy-efficient appliances, hardwood flooring, new carpet and cherry wood cabinets.
"They have made truly beautiful homes," said Tami Perdue, the realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services enlisted by the city to sell the properties.
The first three, completed in 2012, are already occupied. The latest round were featured during a recent open-house, with two now under contract and a buyer still being sought for the third.
One of the houses at 1334 Covert St. cost about $130,000 to build, Bonar said. It appraised at around $86,000 and the grant funding allows the price to be reduced even further. People making up to 120 percent of the city's median income - $66,950 for a family of four - are eligible to purchase the homes.
"They can get into one of these homes for less than what they pay in rent," Perdue said. "They get a brand-new home that they shouldn't have to do any repairs to for years."
The houses were built on sites where run-down structures were demolished after being acquired by the Parkersburg Urban Renewal Authority, Bonar said.
Replacing blighted properties with affordable housing encourages more investment in the area "by making the neighborhood more stable," Yeager said.
The area is almost evenly split between homeowners and rentals. Buyers are required to live in the homes, according to the regulations.
The idea is for the homes to benefit more than just the families living in them. Having occupied housing in good shape will ideally raise property values and encourage other homeowners and landlords to reinvest in their buildings if the neighborhood appears to be on the rebound, Yeager said.
Although there is no more funding available for the city from the program, Yeager said that the money from sales of the houses goes back to the state development office. The city can petition the state for some of that revenue to be returned and used toward future projects, including construction of more housing.