Home redevelopment initiative completes fourth Oshkosh project

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The 1628 Elmwood Avenue open house is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

A previously dilapidated home just blocks away from the Paine Art Center and Gardens has been remodeled through a community partnership program that has turned the once dilapidated structure into a neighborhood gem that is now available for purchase by a moderate-income buyer.

This property, at 1628 Elmwood Avenue in Oshkosh, is the fourth project completed by the Winnebago County Housing Authority’s Homebuyer Program and is currently listed for sale.

The program collaborates with community partners on the purchase and full renovation of failing homes in desirable neighborhoods, restoring them into attractive, updated homes.

“We acquire homes that sit as a negative to the community and transition them into one of the neighborhood’s best assets,” said Oshkosh / Winnebago County Housing Authority Director Susan van Houwelingen. “We invest significant capital, bringing all aspects of the home up to code while enhancing the appearance, safety, and livability of the home.”

According to van Houwelingen, the failing homes almost always have lead hazard issues, electrical concerns and plumbing violations. “Each of our homes is rehabbed following lead safety measures and is cleared by laboratory lead tests following the work. Municipal inspection services are brought in to ensure compliance with electrical, plumbing and any other standards. We also often implement measures to improve the energy efficiency of the home.”

The Elmwood Avenue property sat vacant for nearly a year before the Housing Authority purchase. The home’s exterior was failing while the interior faced numerous issues including a failing heating system, leaking water heater, electrical hazards, floor damage, and livability concerns common with older homes.

“Just over $55,000 in labor and materials was invested into the property, supporting local business while strengthening neighborhood property values,” said project manager Clint Wilz. “The character of this home, with beautiful hardwood floors and dark crown molding, French doors and curved stairway entry, demonstrates a craftsmanship seldom found in modern construction.”

The three-bedroom one-and-a-half-bathroom home sits on an expansive one-third acre landscaped lot with a two car garage. Features of the home interior include a first floor study/office, new kitchen cabinetry and counters, new kitchen appliances, new HVAC system including central air, and immaculate hardwood floors. The exterior features new maintenance-free siding.

The redevelopment projects are planned so that costs are covered by sale proceeds. Program Coordinator Justin Mitchell says the upfront dollars for each project come from the repayment of past homebuyer loans that the Housing Authority has issued as part of its homebuyer assistance program, and the sale projections are always within 5 percent of the investment cost.

“We are very strategic with our purchases, focusing on failing homes where we believe the acquisition cost and rehab cost will be covered by the sale price,” said Mitchell. “Neighborhood plays an important role in ensuring that an obtainable sales price fits with the total project cost.”

The redevelopment initiative emphasizes three key benefits beyond the improvements to the actual property, including homeowner wealth development, neighborhood stabilization, and investment in the local economy.

“Our primary goal is to expand homeownership opportunities for moderately low-income families in our community, which in turn provides a rare opportunity for many families to develop long-term wealth,” said Mitchell. “Being a lower-income family does not mean an inability to manage finances, and in many cases the severe limits of available financial resources often creates exceptional financial management skills. By supporting these households through extensive homeownership and financial management training, and with responsible financial investment, together we create an opportunity for long-term wealth development.”

According to First Weber real estate agent Kyle Kehoe, the redevelopment program has immediate and lasting impacts on neighborhoods. “The neighborhood appearance and feel is vastly improved when you transform one of the worst homes into one of the best. You have the ability to keep a residential home owner-occupied and will help strengthen neighborhood property values.”

Assessment and appraisal records for the three completed projects show a cumulative increase in value from $167,000 to $349,000, and increase of $182,000.

Kehoe says the impact is well-beyond the single home as these new strengthened values are used as comparables for other appraisals. “Where the home once brought other values down as a comparable appraisal, it now has the potential to increase values for multiple homes in the broader neighborhood.”

The Housing Authority plans to invest nearly $900,000 in home redevelopment activities over a ten-year period that began in 2015. These dollars are specific to home rehab activities and do not include purchase and sale expenditures, which pushes the total investment to over $2 million.

“All of the materials and labor expenses are paid directly to businesses and employees in Oshkosh and the Fox Valley area,” said van Houwelingen. “We inject significant capital into these rehab projects, which helps to support good paying construction and skilled labor jobs. Nearly all of the bidding parties are locally-owed crews, with our funding helping to support our neighbors and our broader community.”

Qualifying and Down Payment Assistance

Projects completed by the Winnebago Homebuyer Program are designed to serve low and moderately low income families. For example, a family of four must earn less than $54,150 annually to qualify. The program works with applicants on financial and debt management as well as homeownership skills. Financial Information and Service Center (FISC), a community nonprofit financial counseling agency, administers the program’s mandated homebuyer education program. Families are not permitted to spend more than 32 percent of their gross monthly income on housing costs, and non-housing debt costs (loans, credit cards) may not exceed 12 percent of income.

Qualified families are eligible for financial support for the purchase of their home through the Winnebago Homebuyer Program in the form of zero percent loans.

“Our down payment assistance is a crucial part of the overall program success, and this is the main key in keeping the homes affordable,” said Mitchell. “While our assistance requires repayment, the borrower does not need to repay the balance until they sell, transfer possession, or no longer occupy the home as their primary dwelling.

Mitchell said the assistance often eliminates a need for private mortgage insurance while reducing the amount needed to be borrowed from the lender.

The Elmwood project is slated to receive $24,300 in down payment assistance from the Winnebago Homebuyer Program. The property has also been inspected by the city of Oshkosh Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) coordinator and is potentially eligible for additional assistance. The minimum homebuyer out of pocket investment is $3,250, though additional funds may be necessary to keep the total monthly housing costs to below 32 percent of monthly income.

Interested applicants can visit www.winnebagohomebuyer.org for additional information and to access an application. The property is currently listed with Steve Poeschl of First Weber Realtors (ph. 920.233.4181).

Open House for Community Partners and Neighbors

With each finished project, the Winnebago Homebuyer Program hosts an open house where community partners and neighbors can come and see the finished project as well as the before photos. The 1628 Elmwood Avenue open house is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“We go door to door around the neighborhood and invite our neighbors who have been watching teams go in and out of the home for the last four months,” said Mitchell. “The support and appreciation that we continue to receive from neighbors and our community partners has been an inspiration for our team and our agency.”

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