In May Leona Williams received notice from her landlord that he was selling her rented home at 713 15th St. NE and as required by law, he was giving her the chance to buy it before it went on the market.
It was a frighteningly familiar letter. Only a year before Williams had to move her five children from a rented house around the corner when she received a similar notice from a different owner. But this time, she vowed, it would be different.
Yesterday, Williams and four other low and moderate-income families in the block who received the same notice brought their rented houses, becoming homeowners. It was a proud moment for all of them, coming as it did in the wake of what had been a difficult but successful fight to find the money to buy the properties.
"It had happened to me only a year ago," Williams, who works for the city welfare department, said. "I had lived in the neighborhood for 10 years. I had children in the schools, and I didn't want to take them out."
The families earn between $12,000 and $18,000 a year and some of them depend on a social security and public assistance payments, according to David Freed, assistant director of the Capitol East Coalition for Housing and Neighborhood Improvement, who has worked with the families for months.
The houses cost $33,333 each, and part of the downpayment funds were raised by "digging deep and working overtime," Freed said. In addition, City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker found private donors who contributed $10,000 in deferred payment grants for down payment money and the Capitol East Neighborhood Housing Center contributed $3,500, he said.
The city housing department is giving each family about $15,000 in deferred payment, low-interest loans to rehabilitate their homes, Freed added.
And Perpetual Federal Savings and Loan Association will provide each family with 90 percent mortage loans at "market rate" interest, according to Jeff Morris, urban loan specialist for Perpetual. Morris added that it is significant the moderate-income families also were ablt to get private mortgage insurance on their homes.
"These loans went throught the regular mortgage financing process," Morris said. "We gave them the same underwriting criteria that we give anyone else."
The families' monthly payments will be more than $300 a month, much more than their former rent payments. But it will be worth the difference just to be homeowners, said Carrie Muldrow, whose mother, Lillie Gattison, went to settlement yesterday on 707 15th St. NE.
"It's different from renting. It's yours," Muldrow said. "You don't have to worry about whether or not you're going to have to move the next day."