Baton Rouge resident Gloria D. Brown had already canvassed two of the homes on display during Saturday’s Mid City on Parade home buyer expo, but dismissed them as “not the one.”
“I’m the type of person who knows exactly what I want,” Brown said. “When I walk in it, I’ll know.”
After looking at four homes, the fifth one, located within walking distance of Baton Rouge Magnet High School, “was it,” Brown declared with a smile.
“If I can get that one, I’m going to be happy,” she said.
Prospective, first-time home buyers hopped on a bus Saturday morning to tour seven “affordable” homes in Baton Rouge’s midcity neighborhood with hopes of one day owning one.
“It’s better knowing you can buy something that is your own,” Quinn Green, of Baton Rouge, said as she toured each of the seven homes offered, priced from $117,500 to $165,000.
“The choices are nice because you can always get into a house and make it a home,” Green said.
The home buyer’s expo and tour of affordable homes was led by the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance’s Home Ownership Center.
The center is described as a community resource that provides comprehensive home-buying workshops as well as financial education and affordable housing assistance for people looking to better manage their money and own their own home, according to the website, http://brgov.com/Dept/ocd/midcity.htm.
“Our goal is to serve as a catalyst, coordinator and facilitator, and help revitalize the midcity area of Baton Rouge,” said Robinn Betts, operations manager and home services manager for the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance.
Midcity is the Florida Boulevard area around Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City and Sacred Heart Catholic Church and School.
In general, the area is bounded by 14th Street, North Street, Foster Drive and Government Street. It has historic neighborhoods such as Ogden Park, Bernard Terrance and the Garden District.
“We try to retain homeowners and businesses, and bring in new homeowners and businesses,” Betts said. “After years of disinvestment, midcity has rebounded with great neighborhoods, strong schools, and a thriving business contingent.”
Primarily intended for low- to moderate-income families, the Home Ownership Center program provides free home buyer and financial literacy services. Staffed by counselors, the Home Ownership Center provides credit counseling, home buyer readiness training, home buyer training, real estate services, financial education, foreclosure prevention, post-purchase counseling and links to down payment assistance programs in addition to Mid City on Parade.
Brown, who is renting a one-bedroom home for about $400 a month, said she has completed the home buyer training classes and is ready to buy a home, with monthly mortgage payments she expects won’t cost her too much more than her monthly rent.
“I would like to get a three-bedroom home in a nice area,” Brown said. “I want it to be neat, nice and clean.”
To help first-home buyers such as Brown, Betts said, financial assistance is available to those home buyers who work with approved lenders.
The biggest problem facing many people interested in buying a home in Baton Rouge is finding something affordable, Betts said.
“It’s not what it used to be,” Betts said. “We do have people who qualify for a home but not at the current home prices.”
For example, a family may qualify for a home that costs $75,000, but can’t find a home available for that price, she said. Down payment assistance programs may help those families by reducing the cost of the home.
Betts said some programs offer a $20,000 down payment at zero percent interest to home owners for 20 years.
“Chase is definitely lending, and it is our hope through partnerships with nonprofit organizations like Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, that we can further our commitment in the community that we serve not only just to promote home ownership but to also help individuals sustain homeownership,” said mortgage banker John Riley, of Chase Bank.
Cedric Washington, a real estate agent showing one of the homes on the tour, said he wholeheartedly supports the goals of the alliance’s Home Ownership Center.
“It’s great,” Washington said. “As a first-time home buyer, you need all of the help you can get, so I think the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance is excellent. They’re showing them an array of houses.”
In addition to the many residences on the market in the midcity area, the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance is in the final stage of designing what will be its next Legacy Development project in the heart of midcity, according a brochure handed to prospective homeowners on Saturday’s tour.
New homes will be built on property owned by the alliance at Convention and Eugene Streets. The move marks the beginning of a new neighborhood redevelopment plan inwhich the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance and its partners will focus on revitalization of the neighborhood.
Each of the new homes would be eligible for a $55,000 assistance package from the Office of Community Development.
For more information about home ownership and other programs offered by the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, go to http://www.midcityredevelopment.org.