News - June 3, 2009

Habitat for Humanity begins work on foreclosed home in Belle Haven

by Sean Howell

Habitat for Humanity has already begun renovation on a foreclosed home in Menlo Park, less than a month after the city of Menlo Park approved funding for the program.

Volunteers started work on a home in the city's Belle Haven neighborhood Friday, May 29, tearing down an illegal addition behind the house to lay the foundation for the rehabilitation effort. Within the next two months, the housing nonprofit expects to choose a low-income family to sell the home to.

"This is very new for us," said spokeswoman Jennifer Doettling. Habitat normally builds homes from the ground up, but in this case it's going about it differently: buying homes that have been foreclosed upon and fixing them up.

In addition to providing housing for a low-income family, the organization hopes the plan will help to stave off blight in the Belle Haven neighborhood, which has been wracked by foreclosures as real estate prices have plummeted.

The city of Menlo Park has agreed to contribute up to $500,000 to the program from its below-market-rate housing fund, matching $500,000 that Habitat will put up. The nonprofit group hopes to use the money to purchase and renovate up to five homes in Belle Haven.

Menlo Park Presbyterian Church also plans to contribute to the program, offering to match donations up to a total of $150,000. With additional donations, Habitat hopes to buy a minimum of 15 foreclosed homes over the next two years, Ms. Doettling said.

Habitat bought the first home under the program for $225,000 in late April, according to Ms. Doettling. By the time the renovation is finished, the house will cover 910 square feet, with three bedrooms.

Habitat plans to sell the house to a family that either lives or works in Menlo Park, and takes in 40 to 60 percent of area median income — between about $63,000 and $94,000. It will cost somewhere in the range of $25,000 to $50,000 to renovate each home, Ms. Doettling said.

The Habitat plan is separate from the city's plan to buy foreclosed homes in the Belle Haven neighborhood, and resell them to people on the city's below-market-rate housing list.


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