Civic leaders, government officials, and representatives of local lending institutions met with residents of two District neighborhoods during the last two weeks to discuss ways for low-and moderate-income families to obtain loans to purchase or rehabilitate homes in their neighborhoods.
The coalition of organizations that sponsored the workshops hopes to obtain commitments from financial institutions for investments in inner-city housing. The coalition expects to deliver a full proposal and report to the mayor and city council, based on this month's meetings, by the end of the year.
The first workshop, attended by about 50 people Nov. 5, concentrated on Bloomingdale-Eckington, a small area of older homes near the B&O Railroad yards and the intersection of Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street. The second meeting, attended by about 130 people Nov. 12, concentrated on the area of the city in which housing ownership is lowest and housing conditions poorest - Anacostia.
Terry Nelson's situation appeared typical. His house at 29 U St. NE needs repairs, he told the Nov. 5 meeting. But because the house is in what lenders term a "high risk" area, he has had difficulty obtaining a home improvement loan.
Similarly, John Howard, a Catholic University law student now living in Shaw, said he wants to move back into the house on Q Street NE where he was born. His mother is willing to sell the house to him, but he feels he has little chance of finding a lending institution willing to finance the purchase.
Meanwhile, a third-generation resident of the same neighborhood said she is tired of real estate speculators knocking on her door. "For 30 years, I ate soup and biscuits in order to pay for my house," she said. "All I want now is to be left alone."
A major problem, according to James D. Vitarello, executive director of the D.C. Commission on Residential Mortgage Investment, is lenders' definition of a "risk area." Vitarello contends that lenders have concentrated on suburban housing and have ignored the inner city. He says lending institutions must revise their definition of risk and re-evaluate traditional appraisal and underwriting standards.
Vitarello was a main force behind a recently released city goverment study, "Strategy for Change: Housing Finance in Washington, D.C." It proposes a 10-point plan for facilitating neighborhood reinvestment and making home ownership easier for low-and moderate-income families. On the basis of the report, city council chairman Sterling Tucker proposed a new city Housing Finance Agency last month.
The housing finance plan calls for the establishment of a loan review committee, which would consist of representatives of local lending institutions and members of the D.C. Mortgage Investment Commission. This group would review complaints from loan applicants and attempt to find alternative ways of granting loan applicants that have been denied.
The plan also calls for private lending institutions and the District government to underwrite joint mortgage and rehabilitation loans for moderate-income families. The proposed agency would also provide neighborhood-based home ownership counseling services.