Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Family moves into affordable home rebuilt through ‘Operation Rehab’

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Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
Kayden Sneed, 4, shows off his Frederick home’s porch to Charles Halm, an official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on Jan. 31.
Four-year-old Kayden Sneed is more than happy to give you a guided tour of his new downtown Frederick home.

On a recent visit, the tot darted down a long hallway, pointing out each room at a hurried pace, slowing only to go over the intricate details of his own bedroom, including a ladder that leads up to his bed.

What Kayden describes in a rush was a long time coming for his parents, Jasmine and David Sneed.

‘‘We are so blessed,” Jasmine, 31, said. ‘‘We couldn’t believe that it wasn’t possible to buy a home in the city we love. This house means so much to us.”

The Sneeds are the latest family to benefit from the City of Frederick’s use of Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Using $600,000 of the grant funding, the city worked for two years to strip down a Market Street home to its log cabin roots dating to the 1600s.

Once rebuilt, the home was offered for sale to first-time homeowners who met income qualifications, attended workshops and could afford adequate monthly mortgage payments. The city plans to reinvest the money it recoups from the mortgage — about $150,000 — into other ‘‘Operation Rehab” projects, refurbishing neglected properties for reuse as affordable homes. In 2008, the city anticipates nearly $385,000 from the federal government for this and other housing endeavors.

According to Eileen Barnhart, housing financial specialist for the city, 12 families applied to purchase the home, but only one could meet all the city’s requirements: the Sneeds. The requirements included being first-time homeowners, having sufficient credit to support the mortgage, and being within specific income limits, including a $68,000 limit for a family of three. Candidates needed to supply a down payment of $1,650.

After a decade of living in a condominium in Fredericktowne Village, the Sneeds began looking for a home after Kayden’s birth. The pair preferred to stay in Frederick, but found the housing market ‘‘cost prohibitive,” Jasmine said. ‘‘As first-time homebuyers, we couldn’t afford a home unless I went back to work full-time.”

Jasmine is the former director of the Frederick Festival of the Arts, and now operates a consulting business from her home. She also serves as marking director for Everedy Square and Shab Row. David, 38, also works from home for Verizon Business.

Jasmine said that her prayers were answered when a friend told her about the city’s rehab project and she knew from the description ‘‘this was my house.” Mortgage details were finalized in late December and soon after, the family moved in to its new home.

On Jan. 31, a representative from the federal Housing and Urban Development’s Baltimore office, along with city officials, visited the Sneeds to see the latest ‘‘Operation Rehab” house.

‘‘It is a beautiful home for a family that deserves to live in Frederick,” said Charles Halm, director of community planning and development for the agency. ‘‘The city was able to do this for them while also preserving the historical character of the city ...This is one of the things Frederick excels at.”