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Nehemiah project surplus cash to help buy vacant homes


Baltimore housing officials plan to use part of a surplus in federal funds from the Nehemiah housing project in West Baltimore to bid for vacant private homes at the city's May 12 tax sale.

The plan was enthusiastically embraced yesterday by the Board of Estimates, which approved the new use of federal Community Development Block Grant money.

The recently completed Nehemiah I Housing Project -- consisting of 300 new and rehabilitated houses in the Sandtown-Winchester and Penn-North neighborhoods -- finished with a budget surplus of $900,000, according to David K. Elam, development director for the city's housing department.

The surplus of federal Community Development Block Grants in the $17 million project came from savings in construction and mortgage costs, he said.

The city wants to use $200,000 to $300,000 of that money to try to buy up 268 vacant, privately owned houses in the Sandtown-Winchester area at the May 12 auction, he said. The properties would be renovated by the Enterprise Nehemiah Development Inc., which did the original Nehemiah project, he said.

The purchase would help make good on a March pledge by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to see that every boarded-up house in Sandtown-Winchester would be renovated within a year.

Mr. Elam said he talked "at length" yesterday with federal Housing and Urban Development officials, who gave the plan their blessing.

l City Council President and Board of Estimates member Mary Pat Clarke applauded the plan.

"Tell 'em to spend the money. Buy them all. I think it's a great deal," she said.

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