By James Cullum
Saroj and Radhika Chhetri and their son, Arthur, never had it so good. Today, with cameras flashing, the Mayor of Alexandria handed the family the keys to their new Hume Springs home. The modest, two-level row house on Edison Street was once a run down foreclosure. It is the first Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development Neighborhood Stabilization Program project in northern Virginia.
“This is a great use of federal funds, which are filtered from the federal government to the state and then to municipalities like Alexandria,” said John Hall, field office director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “This program is meant to address the foreclosure and abandonment rate, which has been rising throughout the country.”
In 2006, the Chhetri family moved from their native Nepal to Alexandria. Saroj works at a local food store and Radhika is studying to become a nurse.
“I can now proudly say that we have a home,” Saroj Chhetri said. “It’s a big dream that’s come true.”
Chris Thiel is the board president of Rebuilding Together Alexandria, which partners with the City on the use of its Neighborhood Stabilization funding. “We had over 50 volunteers who worked more than 375 hours,” he said. “We renovated the house from top to bottom.”
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 provided $4 billion in community development block grants to states and localities to buy foreclosed homes; $38 million was given to Virginia and $950,000 went to Alexandria.
The property was bought for $175,000 and sold for $191,282. The $41,000 renovation for the three bedroom home includes: kitchen cabinet and countertop replacement; the installation of energy efficient appliances and light bulbs; new flooring, a new heating and air conditioning system and weatherization and insulation; a fresh coat of paint for the inside of the home and landscaping.
“Whenever you can remove blight in a positive way, the neighborhood improves in a positive way,” said Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, who advised struggling residents to take advantage of the City’s foreclosure prevention resources.
Katharine Medina is the executive director of RTA. “Our donations are down for the year, but the neighborhood stabilization funding helps us,” she said. “But we don’t make a profit. That money goes into those houses to fulfill our mission, which is to repair and revitalize homes for low income homeowners in need.”