Patterson Park among City’s hottest neighborhoods for 2013

From the Baltimore Sun, January 24
By Steve Kilar

Among Baltimore’s neighborhoods, the hip community of Hampden is forecast to see the most home value appreciation this year, according to data-driven real estate search website Zillow.

Home values in that North Baltimore district should see a 4.2 percent increase over the next 12 months, according to a report the firm recently released. Zillow considers an annual appreciation of about 3 percent to be the national norm.

Locust Point and Highlandtown are tied for second place in the Baltimore forecast. Zillow estimates that values in those neighborhoods will increase 4.1 percent by the end of the year.

In addition to Highlandtown, several other neighborhoods surrounding Patterson Park — Ellwood Park/Monument, the Patterson Park Neighborhood, Upper Fells Point and Butchers Hill — are among the forecast’s top 10.

Other neighborhoods in the top 10, all predicted to appreciate at 3.3 percent or more, are Washington Village/Pigtown, Mount Vernon and Remington.

As a group, metro Baltimore’s homes are forecast to increase in value 1.4 percent this year, according to Zillow.

“Nationally, home values are projected to increase 3.3 percent over the next year,” Zillow’s report said.

Baltimore’s home values bottomed out in the first quarter of last year — one quarter later than the nation as a whole, which has now had five consecutive quarters of home value appreciation, Zillow said.

Home values in metro Baltimore just returned to levels last seen in December 2004, the firm’s report said.

City announces down payment assistance program

From the Baltimore Sun, January 7, 2013 —

Wells Fargo is offering eligible homebuyers in Baltimore a $15,000 down-payment assistance loan that is fully forgivable if the purchaser lives in the home for five years — part of a legal settlement over alleged discriminatory lending practices by the bank.

“2013 promises to be the best year ever to buy a home in Baltimore city,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at a new conference Monday morning in City Hall to announce the initiative.

The new $4.5 million program, a large enough pot of money to help individuals purchase 300 homes, adds to an already robust set of incentives to buy a home in Baltimore. If the Wells Fargo funds are combined with the other city homebuying inducements — including the Vacants to Value booster program and the Live Near Your Work incentive — a potential homebuyer could have tens of thousands of dollars to put toward buying a home.

The first $1 million — enough for 67 homes — became available Jan. 2. The remaining funds will be distributed to qualified buyers at a two-day event that will take place in early April.

All of the funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore Inc., which is collaborating with Wells Fargo to administer the program.

Called CityLIFT, the program was established as part of a $175 million settlement last year between the U.S. Department of Justice and Wells Fargo. CityLIFT funds also are being made available in several other cities that were hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, including Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia and Oakland, Calif.

The government accused the bank of discriminating against African-American and Latino borrowers between 2004 and 2009. Black and Latino borrowers were more likely than whites to receive a subprime mortgage — a higher-cost loan intended for borrowers with poor credit — from the bank during that period even if they should have qualified for better loan terms, the Justice Department said.

Baltimore, a leader in the discrimination case against Wells Fargo, was allocated $7.5 million of the settlement funds. The $3 million that is not going toward down-payment assistance through CityLIFT is being divided between the payment of litigation expenses and a to-be-determined foreclosure-related program, according to City Solicitor George Nilson.

The city requested proposals for the use of the remaining settlement funds from a handful of legal services and housing organizations, Nilson said. He expects a decision about how that money is going to be used by early February, he said.

“We’re looking for uses where modest amounts of money could be the most help,” he said of the surplus settlement dollars.

In Baltimore, borrowers are eligible for a CityLIFT loan if their household income is 120 percent or less of the area median income. That is about $72,000 for an individual and $103,000 for a family of four. Household income is calculated using all income earned by people 18 and older living in the home after purchase.

Purchasers must use a loan from a lender that has been invited to participate in the program. Wells Fargo, First Mariner Bank, First Home Mortgage and Prospect Mortgage are among the participating lenders.

An applicant for the loan is not required to be a first-time homebuyer, but if the applicant currently owns a home, it must be sold before the closing on the new house. In fact, to qualify, the applicant cannot own any additional properties, including investment properties, according to Neighborhood Housing Services.

The new home must be used as an owner-occupied primary residence and must be within Baltimore’s city limits. In addition to single-family detached homes, condos, townhouses and buildings with one to three rental units (in addition to the owner’s primary residence) are eligible for the Wells Fargo loan.

“It is required you participate in an eight-hour housing counseling program” administered by a counseling agency approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Dan Ellis, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services.

In Baltimore, those agencies include Ellis’ group, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, the Greater Baltimore Urban League and several neighborhood-focused community development organizations.

The CityLIFT loans charge no interest. Twenty percent of the loan is forgiven each year the purchaser remains in the home, until it is fully forgiven in the fifth year. If the home is sold or not owner-occupied before the end of the five-year period, the prorated balance is due immediately.

In other cities where the program has been launched, funds were allocated only through a conference-style meeting, said Ken Strong, Baltimore’s deputy commission for green, healthy and sustainable homes. But organizing a large convention can take months, so city officials negotiated with Wells Fargo to have $1 million made available at the beginning of the year, he said.

“We’d be missing these critical three months” of home sales, Strong said, if the city waited until a convention could be organized.

Until April, only applicants who have completed a homebuyer counseling class, received a pre-approved mortgage from a CityLIFT lender and signed a sales contract are eligible to participate in the program, Ellis said.

These requirements will not be necessary to register for the two-day event in April, where potential homebuyers will be able to meet with mortgage consultants, sign up for homebuyer education programs and take part in a tour of homes for sale. Registration for the April event, scheduled for the 5th and 6th, will open in March and be coordinated by Neighborhood Housing Services.

More information about the program is available from Neighborhood Housing Services at http://nhsbaltimore.com/citylift and Wells Fargo at www.wellsfargo.com/citylift.

Youth mentoring program connects local elementary students to neighborhood mentor

Mark Parker, pastor of Breath of God Church on Clinton Street, has been running an afterschool program connecting neighborhood kids to neighborhood volunteers. This year, he has changed the time to make it possible for more people to volunteer in this effort to strengthen our community.

The Youth Mentoring Program works with neighborhood kids in the key upper-elementary (3rd-5th grades) time range. The goal is to strengthen them in their health, social skills and academic achievement so that they are as prepared as possible for success during the difficult middle school years. This is a great time to offer extra help and intervention with children, as academic and behavioral problems that young people bring with them into middle school tend only to get worse.

The goal is to have enough volunteers to work one-on-one with these kids, so every kid gets the attention they need, and more so. Every kid gets a mentor to help them with their work, to hold them to account and to learn from about goals and life.

The group meets from 5pm to 6:40pm on Mondays while school is in session. We spend that time on 1) physical activity; 2) healthy snack; 3) math & reading. If you can’t get back from work and over to the church until 5:15pm or so, that could still work, because the group will be up in the gym playing a game of some kind.

Tiana and Sarah, both 10 years old and 5th grade students at Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School # 215, have participated in past years. They cite hanging out with friends and the want to do something afterschool as reasons they joined the program. Both say their favorite part of the program is “talking to the grownups. Grownups are interesting.” When asked about their future goals, Tiana says her “goals are to drive and to become President of the United States and to open an animal adoption center.” Sarah hopes to “become a cosmetologist and to make a company to tell young girls about what they can do with their lives and other girl things.”

New murals brighten East Avenue!

Thanks to a project headed by East Sector Vice President Dave Leibensperger and Leanna Wetmore of Banner Neighborhoods, two colorful new murals were commissioned and painted this fall in Patterson Park. Neighborhood residents participated in the design and selection of plants to be featured in the mural, along with Baltimore artists Stab and Michael Owen of the Baltimore Love Project.

In November, the first mural was painted on the south side of a few industrial storage units on the south side of Esther Place, at the intersection with the 100 block of N. East Avenue. The mural depicts several native plants and flowers, which will be part of a garden planted near the mural in 2013.

The second mural is on the north side of the storage units on Fayette Street where it meets N. East Avenue. It depicts several sea creatures, including a blue crab and sea otters. The total cost of these very large murals was over $7,000, funded through grants by Healthy Neighborhoods, Banner Neighborhoods and resident contributions. Both murals have really beautified the area—you should come take a look!

2013 PPNA Officer Elections – January 14th

PPNA will hold its annual election of officers at our monthly meeting on January 14th at 7 pm at St. Elizabeth’s Church.

Nominations are open for the following positions:

  • President
  • VP West: Represents area west of Linwood Ave, between Baltimore & Fayette
  • VP East: Represents area on east of Linwood Ave, between Baltimore & Fayette
  • VP South: Represents area south of Baltimore St.
  • VP North: Represents area north of Fayette St.
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer

All board members attend monthly community and board meetings and have a vote in which projects with organization will work on each year. The President leads community and board meetings, interfaces with City liaisons. VPs run a sector cleanup, interfaces with sector residents. The secretary takes notes at the meetings and runs the email announcements and calendar. The Treasurer keeps a ledger for the collected dues and grants of the organization.

If you are interested in running for any of these offices, or know someone who is, please send your nominations to secretary@pattersonparkneighbors.org by Friday, January 11th. If you are nominating someone else, please provide the contact information for the nominee.

To run for office, or to vote in this election, you must be current on your 2013 PPNA dues, have been a paid member in 2012 and attended at least two events in 2012.