ATWATER -- A blighted, burned-out house at the corner of Brownell Street and Kim Avenue has been bought by the city of Atwater, 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 designed for the city to use to acquire foreclosed or blighted properties. They are then used to rehabilitate and sell or to help homebuyers, meeting certain income requirements, to buy vacant, foreclosed homes at 1 percent below market value in the community.
Atwater officials, however, have found tough sledding in helping homebuyers find homes at 1 percent below market value. They just don't exist, and banks or other homeowners aren't willing to sell that low, which is essentially 1 percent below 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, was purchased for around $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 would then 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 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 rehab 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."
One's a start.
Reporter Amy Starnes can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.