Group to renovate homes, build more

Selling the nonprofit homes is aimed at stabilizing aging streets and the agency's own investment.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Hawthorne Street features three markedly different types of homes, all on one block.
The street is part of a lower South Side neighborhood bordering Mill Creek Park. From Glenwood Avenue, about a dozen older but well-kept homes line the street. They have new vinyl siding or paint, replaced porches or tidy landscaping.
In the middle of the street next to those homes are some vacant lots, a few shabby-looking houses and a few more that are boarded up.
Finally, at the end near Edwards Street, Hawthorne rebounds with seven new homes built in recent years by a nonprofit group and rented out. That nonprofit developer, Community Housing Options Involving Cooperative Efforts, or CHOICE, wants to fill in Hawthorne's dilapidated gap and other similar spots in city neighborhoods, but in a different way.
Group's plan: CHOICE plans to renovate or build 10 homes -- half on Hawthorne -- and then sell them to low- and moderate-income families, rather than rent them out.
"Hawthorne is going to be a beautiful street. What a street to really take care of," said Arnold J. Clebone, a CHOICE consultant and the homebuyer project's coordinator. "Our goal is to make it as nice as any suburban street."
CHOICE's change in course is aimed at bringing into neighborhoods homeowners who will improve or stabilize aging streets and the agency's own investment.
CHOICE has more than a dozen new, rented homes on Ridge, Edwards, Orange and High streets, all near Hawthorne.
"They're apt to take more pride," Clebone said of homeowners.
A block watch was founded in the area, in part to be in place when owners move into the new or renovated homes, said Peter P. Ross, CHOICE's special projects coordinator. CHOICE also is working in the neighborhoods, such as organizing cleanups, working with the city on code enforcement and getting police attention, he said.
On Hawthorne, CHOICE is doing three renovations of rundown homes and building two new houses on empty lots.
CHOICE wanted the project's five other homes to be on that street, too, but the city land bank doesn't have any more plots.
Other properties: At least three of those remaining five properties are in the same general area:
U & raquo;One renovation is a street over on Fairview Avenue amid mostly tidy homes, one that's boarded up and a couple in rough condition.
U & raquo;A few blocks away, one new home each will go on High Street and Orange Avenue, adding to the many new homes there that CHOICE built and now rents.
Finally, CHOICE will:
U & raquo;Build one new home on Summer Street, where most of the homes and those on the side streets are in good shape.
U & raquo;Renovate one home on Judson Street, a typical city street where most of the homes are decent but mixed in with a few problem properties.
Getting qualified to buy one of the new or renovated homes won't be easy. The program is for low- or moderate-income families, a group that finds it hard to get mortgages, Clebone said.
"This will be a real test to see if we can attract homeowners," he said. "It's not going to be that easy."
The payoff should be worth it, however. The program gives families a chance at home ownership that they otherwise wouldn't have and lets them build equity instead of spending on rent, Clebone said.
Building is to start in October. Each home project won't start until there is a qualified buyer, so it's unclear how long it will take to sell the 10 planned homes. "It depends on how fast we sell," Clebone said.

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