Atwater home program aims to fight blight

ATWATER -- A blighted, burned-out house at Brownell Street and Kim Avenue has been purchased by the city, demolished and the lot is being prepped for a new home as part of the city's Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The program consists of slightly more than $1 million for the city to acquire foreclosed or blighted properties, then rehabilitate and sell them.

The funds also are used to help home buyers who meet certain income requirements buy vacant, foreclosed homes at 1 percent less than market value in the community.

Atwater officials, however, have found it tough to help home buyers find homes at 1 percent less than market value.

Banks and homeowners typically aren't willing to sell that low, at 1 percent less than the appraised value, city officials said.

The property at 2661 Brownell St. is the first to be acquired by the city as part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Project.

Debbie Smith, Atwater's grant manager, said the land and home, which sat as a burned-out shell for several months, were purchased for about $24,000.

The city has contracted with the Central Valley Coalition of Affordable Housing to build a single-family home on the property. It's expected to be built by July and will be sold to a qualifying family, city officials said.

Barbara Medeiros, 72, who lives across the street from the Brownell property, watched a large crane tear down what was left of the home.

She said she's glad to see something being done with the land.

"I'm sure glad the house is down," she said, noting that anything would be an improvement over what had been there. "So long as it's not a mess like it's been."

As for other rehabilitation Atwater has planned, the city has to meet a state-required benchmark at the end of March to have 75 percent of its funding obligated to projects.

Smith reported that the city's offers on two more properties have been accepted. Work should begin on those locations as soon as the deals close.

Scott McBride, the city's economic development director, said Atwater is on track to meet its benchmark.

In all, the $1 million may help Atwater buy and rehabilitate four or five properties.

"It's great that we got a million dollars, but it's probably a tenth of what we need to do in the community," McBride said. "If you really want to make a big dent, you need enough to do 50 homes, not five homes."