EAST SIDE CHOICE homes cause worries

The home construction is a neighborhood revitalization effort.
YOUNGSTOWN -- New CHOICE Homes for poor people are coming to an East Side neighborhood that was notorious for drug dealing, but some people have concerns about the housing program.
Raul Valentin of Craiglee Avenue, a Democratic precinct committeeman, said he has examined and photographed CHOICE homes that are already occupied elsewhere in the city. "At some of them, I saw that the lawn wasn't taken care of,'' he said, adding that he also saw cars parked on the grass.
Local residents assembled Friday evening at Sacred Heart Church at Wilson Avenue and Jackson Street to discuss the new housing and its impact on their neighborhood.
Some local residents don't want problems they think are associated with renters and don't think it's fair that occupants must rent the new homes for 15 years before they can buy them.
"In 15 years, who wants to buy it?" after it depreciates in value, asked Phyllis Richardson of Early Road. She said the CHOICE home now under construction on Shehy Street is being built too close to adjacent homes. "I don't think these homes fit into the neighborhood with the older homes. If they're going to do anything, take some of the older homes, and let the people remodel them and live in them," she suggested.
'Successful program'
City Councilman Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, said the rules of the program are dictated by federal guidelines and are beyond city officials' control. "CHOICE homes has built over 200 houses in this community over the last six years. All of them are well maintained. It's a successful program, and I don't anticipate there being any problems," he said.
CHOICE leaders have said that the properties are maintained during the rental period and that having occupants rent for 15 years is the only way to keep the project financially viable. Without nonprofit developers, such as CHOICE, there would be little or no home construction in such inner-city neighborhoods, they say.
Ground was broken Aug. 2 for three homes being built on vacant lots by CHOICE, which is an acronym for Community Housing Options Involving Cooperative Efforts. They are among 20 CHOICE homes being built in a $2 million project on the East Side, and plans call for up to 40 more such homes to be built in the area next year.
Got rid of drug activity
The new homes are being built in an area once referred to by drug dealers as "La La Land.'' Last year, police broke up an extensive drug-dealing operation in the neighborhood, which was run by the Ayers Street Playas gang.
Construction of CHOICE homes is financed by the sale of federal, state and city tax credits. The new homes on the East Side will be like the 125 others the agency has built across the city in recent years. They are $100,000, two-story residences with three or four bedrooms, one or two bathrooms, full basements and garages.
The homes are set aside for low-income families. Rent for a family of four earning less than $21,600 a year is $350 to $400 a month, and renters have an option to buy after 15 years.

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