LINCOLN — The newest home on South 16th Street comes with three bedrooms, oak floors, a $149,950 price tag — and a much happier neighbor.
“It helps the neighborhood,” said James Clark, who has lived next door for more than 30 years. “It looks a lot better.”
Better than the rotting and red-tagged two-story home that frustrated this neighborhood for years, drew repeated housing violations and prompted its owners to sign it over to the city last year.
“Animals had walked right in. There was just a lot of animal feces, and the place was rotten and you just didn't want to walk in the place,” said Steve Werthmann of the city's Urban Development Department.
Its decay and decline were gradual.
A couple had moved in at 3849 S. 16th St., just north of Nebraska Highway 2 and the Department of Roads, in the late 1970s. The couple raised two kids, then divorced and moved out — though not before the husband started a renovation he would never finish.
Over the years, the ceiling collapsed, walls caved in, windows were broken and weeds grew out of control. The husband, still the owner, was ticketed repeatedly, and two citations were pending when he died in 2011.
The city's Problem Response Team — with representatives from several departments, such as police, health, and building and safety — deemed the house dangerous. The team had decided to have it demolished and claim the cost against the property when the owner's adult children offered to give it to the city.
“It was clear the house needed to be torn down,” the daughter said last year. “And getting something from the property really wasn't important to us.”
The city used $15,330 in federal funds to pay for the demolition, which drew a crowd of neighbors.
“They were just delighted. It was almost like a picnic atmosphere,” Werthmann said.
Then the city used $149,605 in federal funds to hire Skyline Homes, which put up a vinyl-sided single-story home with 1,230 finished square feet, a 900-square-foot basement with egress windows (ready to be finished), master bedroom with full bath, open floor plan, two-car garage, deck — all of it surrounded by a lush, weed-free lawn.
“It's a lovely house,” said Olga Kanne, a housing specialist for Urban Development. “I myself would love to live there, it's so nice.”
She has fielded about a dozen calls from interested buyers, and the home's online listing has received hundreds of hits.
The house is reserved for low- or moderate-income buyers earning no more than 80 percent of Lincoln's median income. So a single buyer can't earn more than $38,050, and a family of four can't make more than $54,300 per year.
It's the first home the city has built with its Rescue program, which uses federal housing money to redevelop problem properties that are deeded, donated or, in rare cases, purchased. They named it Rescue because it saves neighborhoods — and property values — from dilapidated and dangerous homes, Kanne said.
Like the one that stood on 16th Street until last year.
“We'd love for the private sector to take over and fix things, but sometimes that's not economically feasible for them.”
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