A project designed to help homeowners in the Anacostia Historic District restore their houses has won a $150,000 historic preservation grant from the U.S. Interior Department.
The Anacostia project was one of 10 projects selected nationwide because they "represent some of the best, most creative approaches we have seen to date for saving our historical resources," according to Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus.
Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc., a non-profit organization that administers a revolving loan and grant program in Anacostia, will distribute the $150,000 to homeowners who want to rehabilitate houses in the Anacostial Historic District, a 20-square block area that includes houses dating from the 1850s.
"I don't think this kind of money has ever before been available to people in a low-and middle-income historic neighborhood," said James Lowell, director of NHS.
"It's wonderful that the government is awakening to the fact that people in such neighborhoods are aware of their neighborhood's historic character and want to preserve it."
According to Lowell, NHS will use the $150,000 to make grants to neighborhood families who want to restore their houses. These funds are supposed to pay for no more than half the cost of the restoration project. Families whocannot pay for the other half of the rehabilitation costs may borrow the funds from the NHS revolving loan fund, according to Lowell.
NHS has obtained money for its revolving loan fund from various foundations, Lowell said, while the group's operating expenses are paid largely by the D.C. Savings and Loan League and the D.C. Bankers Association.
In the past year, NHS has helped 60 Anacostial homeowners rehalbilitate their hoses and has helped 40 families buy houses they had been renting, according to Lowell.
NHS, which has been operating since 1973, lends money to persons who live anywhere in Anacostia. But the $150,000 Interior Department grant funds will be available only to residents of the historic distric. Alterations to houses within the historic district must be approved by the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National Capital.
The Anacostia project and nine others in other parts of the country were selected from 235 applications for the grants, according to an Interior Deprartment spokesman. The 10 grants, which total $1,005,000, were made from the Secretary of the Interior's discretionary fund. This is the first time that the grants were made, and there is no assurance they will be made again, according to the spokesman.
Among the other projects that received grants are historic theaters in Illinois and Louisina, historic mill complexes in New Hampshire and Vermont, and a project to make historic buildings in Oklahoma accessible to the handicapped.