- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

At age 60, William Baskerville purchased his first home through the Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) during a ceremonial signing last week in front of Realtors and county officials. It was the 200th closing for the Down Payment on Your Dream initiative under the program.

“The feeling is great; I’ve been ready to own a home for a while, Mr. Baskerville said. “If you are looking for a home, now is the time to buy. We did a lot of paperwork with several people involved, and everyone came together to finalize everything.”

Currently working at Home Depot, Mr. Baskerville saved his money diligently while waiting for his opportunity to purchase a home. He has been living with his daughter in an apartment in Alexandria, Va., and had been searching for a house before the recession set him back.

Mr. Baskerville, who purchased a house in Upper Marlboro, Md., realized his dreams after an encounter with Veera Phillips of Keller Williams Realty, who explained the Down Payment on Your Dream program, which is part of NSP. Qualifying homebuyers can receive up to $20,000 in down-payment and closing-cost assistance to purchase an eligible foreclosed property, according to the Prince George’s County Housing Authority.

County Executive Jack B. Johnson said: “In less than five months, we have taken 200 homes off the foreclosure list and placed them in the hands of families that are enjoying the American dream. These homes have generated about $2 million in extra tax revenue for our county. However, the important thing is that we now have families that are enjoying homeownership.”

The county received 415 applications for the program, and 175 applications are being processed. To be eligible, applicants must be first-time homebuyers, have a household income at the median income or 120 percent of it and be purchasing a foreclosed property in an eligible zip code. Additionally, there is no repayment of the loan if the buyer remains in the home for at least 10 years, according to a housing authority notice.

“This program is unique because it is a public-and-private partnership,” said Samuel H. Dean, Prince George’s County Council member, District 6 Democrat. “The Realtors worked collaboratively with the department in bringing this program together. And this program provides counseling, which is very important for people coming into homeownership.”

NSP was established to stabilize communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. The program is authorized under the Housing and Recovery Act of 2008 and was launched in July.

“Homeownership by Prince Georgians is a high priority for my administration, and the Down Payment on Your Dream program is a way for the county to help our citizens to share in and experience a part of the American dream owning a place to raise a family and become a part of a community,” Mr. Johnson said.

The county has set aside more than $12.8 million for the Down Payment on Your Dream initiative.

“I really believe that everyone should own a home,” Mrs. Phillips said. “Many people who start out renting find it difficult to save money to purchase a home. This home now becomes a legacy for my client, Mr. Baskerville’s family.”

For more information on the Down Payment on Your Dream program, call 301/883-5456 or go to www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/dream.

Odell B. Ruffin is a writer and photographer living in Prince George’s County