Nonprofits trying to blunt impact of foreclosures on neighborhoods having trouble finding some to buy

Healthy Neighborhoods is trying to get several hundred foreclosed Baltimore homes rehabbed and back in the hands of homeowners. The hitch? Something few people anticipated when Congress authorized funds to cushion the foreclosure crisis's effect on neighborhoods.

"There's not a lot of foreclosures out there," says Lisa Evans, a senior program officer at the Baltimore nonprofit.

It's a not a problem-solved situation -- thousands and thousands of local homeowners are far behind on their mortgages. What happened is that the foreclosure apparatus all but shut down after the robo-signing scandal last year, and it's only recently showed signs of revving up again.

Healthy Neighborhoods won $26 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 funds to coordinate the effort to acquire and fix up city homes. Four development partners, mostly nonprofits, are doing the rehab work.

Half the money needs to be spent by next February, which Evans says shouldn't be a problem -- all but $200,000 already has been. The rest must be spent by February 2013, a tricky task if bank-owned properties remain scarce.

"We're optimistic -- we think we'll get there," Evans said. "But it will be a challenge."

Healthy Neighborhoods and its partners noticed the slowdown a few months ago, later than they might have if they hadn't hit pause on acquisition to concentrate on renovation.

Evans says they're happy with the results from the earlier purchases. Of the nearly 120 homes  acquired so far, 42 have been fixed up and sold to homeowners while another 40 or so are under construction. The rest -- nearly 40 -- are awaiting renovation.

Sales prices for the fixed-up homes have ranged from about $87,000 in Belair-Edison to almost $250,000 for 2,600-square-foot houses on Calvert Street in Barclay, near Charles Village.

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