Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Two years ago, Rick Damian walked into a vacant home on Palo Pinto Lane in North Las Vegas and was instantly worried.
The grants program coordinator for the city of North Las Vegas was planning to purchase the vacant home, rehab it for no more than $35,000 and resell it as part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. What he saw, though, looked way over the budget the federal grant allotted to fix it.
The outside looked untouched, but inside, it had become a squatter’s playground. The living room floor had burn marks, holes were punched into the walls, and the ceiling was stained from leaks. It smelled of moisture, he said, even though it hadn’t rained in weeks.
“Who knows how long it was vacant? But the homeless were coming and going,” Damian said.
Today, the inside of the home looks like it came out of a catalog. New faux-wood flooring was installed along with shaggy bedroom carpeting. The walls were fixed and the house has been fitted for maximum energy efficiency. All the work was done within the budget.
The city and four nonprofit developers have rehabilitated 58 other abandoned homes just like this one as part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Since 2008, the city has filled 52 of the homes. The grant-supplemented program has reduced the number of vacant homes in the city and provided low-income families a stable, affordable housing option.
“The impact is that you not only have an improved area; you have a home that has been rehabilitated and a home buyer that has been educated through our system,” Damian said.
In 2008, North Las Vegas was allotted $8.6 million from the Housing Economic Recovery Act to purchase, rehabilitate and resell vacant homes. The city had been hit hard by the housing market crash and had one of the highest foreclosure rates per capita in the country. There were empty homes being taken over by squatters and vandals.
Damian said the city decided to spread the purchases throughout North Las Vegas to make sure as many neighborhoods as possible benefited. Working with the nonprofit organization Community Development Programs Center of Nevada, the city began purchasing and selling the homes.
Officials also decided to call in energy efficiency inspectors to determine how to make sure each house was as “green” as possible.
“In creating an efficiency model for these homes with energy-efficient appliances … it helps a family lower their monthly bill,” Damian said. “And it will be a high-performance home, so their dollar will go further.”
Most of the homes are then sold to families that earn a gross income of no more than half the city’s average median income. For example, a family of four, Damian said, could not make more than $33,000 to qualify.
The city also took steps to prevent future abandonment. Interested homebuyers must take an eight-hour homeowner class to learn the responsibilities involved in owning a home and also must have a good credit score.
Then, the city lends money to the homebuyer for a down payment with the stipulation added on the deed that the bigger the loan, the longer they must stay in the home. Tracie Lockett-Green, who works as a real estate broker for the Community Development Programs Center of Nevada, said the program has helped improve communities.
“The (homeowners association) is very happy because they now don’t have vacant homes in the community, and it’s very welcoming (for the neighborhood),” Lockett-Green said. “Because I’d rather live next to a person in the home than have every other home on block vacant … now it’s bringing people into neighborhoods.”
Lockett-Green said it takes 60 to 90 days to sell a house, but the toughest part is finding buyers who qualify. Still, she said qualified buyers are out there. She recently helped a single mother of a high school student purchase a home.
“We just want homes filled and to bring in affordable homes to the community,” Lockett-Green said. “It’s really inspiring sometimes to see young families come in with a chance to buy a home and know they are able to afford it.”
Damian said the city hoped to have all the homes sold by Jan. 1. While he wishes the city received more money to revitalize more homes, he is confident the program has improved the city.
“It’s definitely improving the viability of community,” he said. “To see the program come to an end, there’s some satisfaction that we’ve done our part to prevent (home) abandonment and foreclosure in our community.”
Interested homebuyers can contact Lockett-Green at 513-1293 or visit the Community Development Programs Center of Nevada at 2009 Alta Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89106.