Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007

Habitat takes on first condo rehab

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Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
David Ozag, executive director of Frederick County’s Habitat for Humanity, talks about efforts to rehabilitate homes along West Seventh Street in Frederick on Monday morning.
Habitat for Humanity housing projects usually start from the ground up. But with land prices in Frederick County increasing and affordable housing decreasing, the nonprofit is now starting their efforts from the inside out.

In December, the City of Frederick turned over the deeds to three houses on West Seventh Street that the county’s Habitat for Humanity plans on turning into a townhouse and two attached condominium units.

‘‘This will be our first condominium project, but we need to keep our eyes open for opportunities to get the most bang for our buck, especially in the city,” said David Ozag, the organization’s executive director. ‘‘For years, our mindset has been a single-family house in the country with a yard, but then you see something like this and it can also be a reality for us.”

Habitat for Humanity has already restored four houses in the city, including a 2004 home restoration on B&O Avenue and a restored duplex for two families on West South Street in 2002.

Chuck Boyd, the city’s director of planning, said that the units at West 7th Street were purchased by the city from owners who had difficulty with renovations. They were identified as ‘‘deteriorated and in need for someone to take them on.”

The city paid a combined $140,000 for the three units with plans to donate them to the Hope VI revitalization project to create a mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood in the historic district.

Boyd said the city approached Habitat for Humanity so the group could use its resources, including donations and sweat equity by the homeowners and volunteers, to turn the building into a habitable space.

‘‘This is a new realm and a new challenge for them,” Boyd said. ‘‘It is a little unpredictable, because you never know what is going to happen when you open up a wall, for example. This will be a great opportunity where we can demonstrate the partnership of a nonprofit organization and the city for affordable housing.”

Touring the nearly gutted insides of the structure recently, Ozag maneuvered around cracking tile and exposed pipes to demonstrate that the building, once the home of a store, restaurant and bar, are in decent shape. The group is hopeful to begin work by spring.

Habitat for Humanity plans to spend $200,000 to renovate the units with an equal amount of money in donated services from architectural drawings to heat and air conditioning units and appliances.

Ozag is hopeful that this could be the first of many successful partnerships with the city to create more affordable living in downtown Frederick.

‘‘We are always open to this sort of project at the right price,” he said.