The Prince George's County executive and the mayor of Seat Pleasant trailed wet snow over Willie Mae Stroud's new cocoa brown carpet yesterday, but she was smiling. When they shook her hand and posed for pictures, she exchanged pleasantries as if elected officials drop by her home every day.
"I don't mind," she told the dozen people standing in an awkward circle around her small living room for the short ceremony. "I like to have a lot of people around."
Stroud, 42, and her 20-year-old daughter Bridget were welcoming visitors to their new home on 71st Avenue in Seat Pleasant, a two-bedroom, semidetached duplex that Stroud purchased for $100 in October as part of the Washington area's first urban homesteading program.
Stroud and five other county residents won the right to buy vacant and decaying houses last August in a county-sponsored lottery. When Stroud moved in two weeks ago, following more than $20,000 worth of renovation, she became the first of those selected to actually take possession of one of the homes.
She went to settlement on the house on Oct. 31, her birthday. And even though it is smaller than the two-bedroom apartment she and her daughter were renting a few blocks away on George Palmer Highway, she is willing to adjust to the more cramped quarters in exchange for seeing her name on the title.
Stroud points with pride to her new home, to the fresh coat of yellow paint and matching appliances in the kitchen, to the paneling in the living room and the new water heater and furnace.
"It's small, but it beats paying rent on an apartment," she said.
Stroud paid $394 a month plus utilities to rent her last apartment. She said her new monthly payment, which includes repayment of a low-interest renovation loan plus insurance and taxes comes to $200.54. The homesteaders were eligible for loans at 3 percent interest through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program.
County Executive Parris Glendening used yesterday's occasion to announce that HUD has extended the homesteading program in Prince George's for another year and will provide $141,000 for another house lottery. Last year, the county received $274,000 from HUD for the program.
This time, the buyers who are selected and qualify for the program will have to pay only $10 apiece for the houses they purchase.
The houses in the program were originally bought by private buyers with government loans and became HUD property when the buyers defaulted. The county housing authority then bought the homes in specified areas and parceled them out through the homesteading lottery.
Glendening gave Stroud a wooden plaque with a key mounted on it. "I'm not sure what that key will open," he joked.
Seat Pleasant Mayor Frank J. Blackwell beamed and promised to supply Stroud with a municipal voter registration form.
Stroud, who works as a legal technician for the Securities and Exchange Commission, said that she and her daughter, a student, are still getting used to the idea of living in a home they own.
"She doesn't want to have a housewarming," Bridget Stroud said. "But I will." CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Willie Mea Stroud and her daughter Bridget in the living room of their new P.G. home. The Seat Pleasant house that Willie Mae Stroud bought for $100 in homesteading program. Photos by Fred Sweets -- The Washington Post