Twenty-seven Washington families last night were named as the city's newest participants in urban homesteading, the program that affords moderate-income families a chance to pay as little as $1 for dilapidated homes if they agree to rehabilitate them and live in them for a period of time.
The 27 winners were selected by lot last night from among 270 applicants who survived the eligibility screening. City officials said that more than 1,400 families applied for the program.
The 27 houses award last night more than doubles the number of homesteading houses in Washington. The first 13 houses were allocated in 1974, and city officials said that 19 homes now are part of the program. All are occupied and have been brought up to code standards.
The D.C. homesteading program is similar to a national plan that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began to administer on an experimental basis several years ago. Under that program, individuals and families can buy HUD-foreclosed homes for $1 if homesteaders agree to rehabilitate the houses and live in them for at least three years.
It provide home-ownership opportunities for apartment dwellers, and helps to revitalize entire blocks in many central city neighborhoods. Low-cost loans are available to help homesteaders with renovation.
Washington is not one of the participants in the national program. Instead, D.C. receives its homesteading homes through another federal program that transfers federally-owned homes of little or no value to cities. The cities then can either demolish the houses or use them to create their own homesteading programs, as D.C. has done.
The homes awarded last night include 16 that were purchased from HUD for $1. Those homes will be sold to families for $1. The other 11 homes were purchased from HUD for between $2,000 and $14,800, and will be sold for those amounts, according to a city spokesman.
To qualify, applicants must be in households at least two persons headed by a person at least 21 years old, must live in the District of Columbia and must not own any other residential property.
Renovation cost is expected to range from $13,000 up to $50,000, depending on the size of the house. Many families reduce that cost by doing some of the work themselves.
Under the Washington program, the D.C. government pays settlement charges, and Hospitality House, a private, nonprofit social service agency that cosponsors the program, handles screening and selection, and provides counselling to the homesteaders.
Renovation loans are provided by the D.C. Development Corporation with city funds. Permanent mortgage loans are made available by arrangements with a group of savings and loan associations.
D.C. housing officials have noted that one of the problems faced by homesteaders has been maintaining their properties once they have been purchased. Another has been the increasing property taxes on the rehabilitated homes. Homesteaders themselves have complained in the past of massive repair costs and problems with contractors.
Also, families who were among the first 13 in Washington to participate in the program encountered delays in receiving their houses.
Other homesteaders, while noting that hard work and patience is required, have said they are pleased with the results.