Newly constructed housing within the city limits of Cumberland has been declining for decades and is almost nonexistent. Existing homes continue to age and a growing amount fall into disrepair due to economic conditions and absentee owners. As a result the number of blighted and abandoned properties has reached an all time high. These properties create a negative appearance in surrounding neighborhoods, and the city in general, which detracts an increase in population.
The Cumberland Housing Group has developed a new program that will help combat these conditions while continuing the mission of our agencies of providing safe, affordable, and modern housing within the City of Cumberland. This new program is named the “Cumberland Housing Revitalization Program” or “CHiRP” for short. The Cumberland Housing Alliance, Inc., the development organization for the Housing Authority of the City of Cumberland, is the lead agency for this new program and the Cumberland Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. has provided substantial financial support for this program.
The CHiRP program addresses the growing problem of severely distressed and blighted properties, suffering from trash and deplorable conditions that have been unattended for years in Cumberland’s residential neighborhoods. These properties contribute to poor appearances, increased crime, safety conditions and create a negative impact upon the surrounding community as well as on the city as a whole. CHiRP will remove blighted and no longer habitable homes, cleanup properties, and replace them with affordable housing that will be available for purchase by low and medium income families desiring to live within the city.
This project is the best approach due to the fact these homes are no longer structurally sound or financially feasible to rehabilitate. Through the removal of the homes and the cleanup of the property, CHiRP will be able to immediately make a positive impact in the community. With new housing in place, these neighborhoods will once again be respectable areas for families to live and socialize.
The creation of the Cumberland Housing Revitalization Program aligns with the City of Cumberland’s Sustainable Communities Plan which was updated in 2017. This plan states that “strategic demolition of blighted properties will be undertaken in order to improve the quality of life in targeted neighborhoods.” In this plan, under Desired Outcomes and Progress Measures for Housing, it calls for the City of Cumberland to “continue to work with area housing partners to develop strategies for infill housing.” The Sustainable Communities Plan has been discussed in public meetings with the Cumberland Mayor, City Council and the City of Cumberland’s Blight Committee meetings.
The Acquisition of properties by the Cumberland Housing Alliance will be through the donation of properties or grants from local government, State government, financial institutions, etc. In the past, financial institutions have made donations of property to our agencies for demolition or rehabilitation.
The City of Cumberland routinely acquires ownership of blighted, dilapidated, and distressed housing through various means such as through unpaid taxes, donation and other sources. In turn, they have agreed to deed over selected sites for participation in this program. The State of Maryland periodically issues grants to perform activities that conform to the parameters of this program and will be sought after.
Once the properties have been legally transferred to the Cumberland Housing Alliance, Inc., program activities will begin and include the following:
Property Survey – A property survey will be conducted to determine the legal boundaries of each property as well as any unknown conditions;
Blight Removal – A Request for Bids will be distributed to firms capable of removing all blighted and dilapidated structures existing on the sites. The RFB will include not only current available properties but also any proposed properties to be acquired within the next year. The awarded contract will also be eligible for adding additional properties up to 45% of the total amount of properties initially awarded. After review, a contract will be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder followed by a Notice to Proceed that will be issued to each site when desired.
Excavation – The property will be excavated to remove all existing building materials, foundations, trash, etc. Property will be graded to meet the surrounding topography, water runoff restrictions, future building plans and then placed into a temporary green space.
Infrastructure – Substandard sidewalks and curbing will be removed and replaced with code compliant replacement structures. The underground utility connections will be replaced and stubbed out to a point inside of the property boundary so as to not cause future damage to newly prepared areas.
New Construction – Construction of affordable new homes on the prepared sites will begin with one unit at a time and continue indefinitely for as long as properties are available and the sales market permits. Construction design will be compatible with surrounding structures and will complement the neighborhood.
Sales – Sales will be privately conducted by the Cumberland Housing Group or local area real estate agencies will be solicited and an award made to the most advantageous agency that is capable of marketing and selling the homes constructed. When the construction of a home reaches 50%, it will be advertised for sale at the total development cost. Once the sale is complete and funds deposited, the process will begin anew at another site.
The Cumberland Neighborhood Housing Services (CNHS), a 501c3 organization which voted in 2017 to close and offer the programs to other agencies. The Housing Authority Board felt that the majority of the agencies’ programs would be served well under the Cumberland Housing Group corporate umbrella. The transfer of this organization was completed on June 30, 2017. The previous CNHS Board had identified that a portion of the assets received in the transfer were to be used as a revolving home construction loan fund. The CNHS will award a $500,000 grant to Cumberland Housing Alliance to use as the revolving fund for all expenses of the CHiRP program.
Once either the homes have been rehabilitated or constructed and are ready for sale, there are a few requirements associated with the purchase consisting of:
1. The proposed buyer will need to complete and/or submit the following documents to The Cumberland Housing Group.
2. The home must be owner occupied for a period of fifteen (5) years;
3. Preference will be given to families who have a combined family income which is below 120% of the area median income as established annually by HUD;
4. In the absence of such families, homes will be available for purchase by any income level;
5. Each purchaser will be required to complete a Homebuyer Education Class by a HUD approved agency and submit Form 807 before the designated closing date;
6. Cumberland Neighborhood Housing Services will be available initially and ongoing to assist the buyer through Homeownership Counseling to strengthen the ability of the purchaser to sustain their home purchase, avoid foreclosure and weather other homeowner experiences. will also.
7. Closing Cost Assistance Grants will be offered to qualified purchasers with a family income less than 80% of the area median income when funding is available.
32/34 Virginia Avenue – Previously two vacant and blighted properties which were provided to us from the City of Cumberland. The home at 34 Virginia Avenue was not salvageable and was demolished. the home at 32 Virginia Avenue was completely gutted to the frame and totally reconstructed inside and out. The home was sold to a couple residing in Cumberland as their first home on November 14, 2019.
321, 323, and 325 Pennsylvania Avenue – Property being maintained as green space at this time. Construction planned for spring 2020.
Not for release at this time
Life in the surrounding community will be enhanced through: removal of unsightly and unsafe homes and related structures on the property; improvement of neighborhood appearances; reduction of squatters, crime and illegal activity related to these properties; and interest by other property owners and businesses to enhance and invest in their properties. The construction of new homes will enhance the neighborhood appearance and stabilize or increase property values.
Due to the fact these properties are located entirely within residential neighborhoods, economic development will be limited to the improved tax base which will be realized by the City of Cumberland. It will, however, provide quality housing located within walking distance to public transportation, services and employment opportunities.
The Cumberland Housing Group organizational umbrella consists of all government and public entities. Working together, it achieves the following economic, community, and housing development goals: the removal of blighted homes; improving the value of depressed neighborhoods; decreasing crime and drug related activity in the neighborhoods; increasing the amount of new modern affordable rental and for sale homes; and increasing the tax base within the city.
Together, the agencies of the Cumberland Housing Group are driven to promote and provide affordable housing to our community’s citizens and not driven by profit or tax credits but simply to improve our community.