By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The larger than usual "for sale" sign at 930 High St. looks too good to be true.
The sign says the newly built, lower South Side home can be bought for as little as $47,000. The sign around the block on Orange Street reads the same way in front of another new home.
Nearby on Hawthorne Street, the vintage 1920 home that has been completely rehabilitated looks new. But the sign there says a buyer can have it for as little as $31,000.
All those numbers are true, however, and the homes are ready for sale.
Government subsidies and a nonprofit housing agency made it possible.
A new twist
Selling the homes is a new twist for Community Housing Options Involving Cooperative Efforts, or CHOICE. Usually the agency builds new houses and rents them to low- or moderate-income families. Rent is paid for 15 years before anybody can buy the property.
The latest houses, however, are among 10 that CHOICE is handling under a different arrangement. Half are built new for about $108,000, and the rest are total rehabilitations of old homes. A rehabilitation costs about $80,000.
An open house will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the High Street home. Other new and renovated homes can be seen by appointment.
Rebuilding a neighborhood
Widening the range of housing options means a mix in the types of families who will live in the rebounding lower South Side neighborhoods, said Arnie Clebone, a CHOICE consultant and the home buyer project's coordinator. CHOICE already has more than a dozen new, rented homes on Ridge, Edwards, Orange and High streets.
That means the neighborhood will have people living in newly built rentals, new owner-occupied homes and owner-occupied rehabilitations.
Such homes aren't just for those with minimal incomes, either.
For example, a family of four is eligible for a new house with income up to $38,960 a year. The home buyer just needs good enough credit to secure a mortgage covering the $47,000 purchase price.
Qualified families can remain in the houses even if their income goes up later. For example, a family qualifies even if the homeowner gets a better paying job or adds a second income.
The reason is that stability is a foundation for any neighborhood, Clebone said.
"It's something someone can grow in," he said.
The two-story house on High Street has four bedrooms, 1.5 baths and a two-car garage. Among its attractions are proximity to Interstate 680, a view overlooking the city and the short walk to Mill Creek Park.
A new look
The total rehabilitation on Hawthorne is ready to be shown, and the change is striking.
The old house has everything from a new driveway, porch and siding to a new furnace, windows and kitchen. But the home's character remains intact.
All the original wood trim remains that makes the house stand out -- around every door and window in the house, including the banister. Even the pocket doors remain between the living and dining rooms.
"You couldn't afford to duplicate this," said Linda Hoefert, housing coordinator for the city Community Development Agency. CHOICE worked with CDA on the rehabilitation.
"You're removing an eyesore and creating a new shelter," Clebone said.
CHOICE's next project is building and selling nine new homes in the Beachwood neighborhood on the East Side. Those homes are for moderate-income people who like the rural setting of McKelvey Lake.
"People who couldn't afford to live there, they can afford it now," said Phil Smith, CHOICE executive director.