Cheap houses, no buyers

Who’s going to buy this house?

The house at 274 Edgewood Ave. — a notorious property once owned by thrice-arrested former alderman the Rev. Drew King and now a low-income property to be priced under market value — has not seen an offer in six months. And the house, boarded up and paint peeling, may not see an owner for years.

It does not stand alone. The national recession has caused a sharp drop in interest to purchase New Haven homes, though both city and University officials have attempted to stimulate the market through community agencies and the Yale Homebuyer Program.

King’s former property, currently owned by local nonprofit housing coordinator Neighborhood Housing Services, has been slated to be gutted and renovated for the last six months. The new home will be up for purchase by a low-income family and, according to NHS policy, offered to prospective candidates who have enrolled in homeownership support programs. But no families have yet signed off on the buyer waiting list to show interest in acquiring the house, which NHS Executive Director Jim Paley predicts will be finished by early fall and will sell for less than $200,000.

“We’ve been getting a little bit of a slowdown in terms of [persuading people to] … sign on the list,” said Paley on Thursday when asked why the house had no interested buyers. “I can’t really say there are other reasons.”

He added, “If this were two years ago, we would have someone on the list the moment we sent out the notice.”

Now agencies are reacting to the slow times, either pushing for more expansionary initiatives — or just pulling back.

Just last month, in the Housing Authority of New Haven, one of the main city housing support organizations, agency executive Jimmy Miller asked agency commissioners to reduce homeownership units at a major Fair Haven development, according to the New Haven Independent.

On the other hand, as a move to further spur homeownership, Yale has increased its annual payment to Homebuyer Program participants this month to $2,500 from $2,000 per year. Homebuyer Program manager Bill Carney did not return a message left on his office voice mail Thursday.

And at NHS, many houses are reserved as low-income family homes and are sold at purported lower-than-market-value prices.

But for some properties, incentives are not enough.

Recent statistics show that hope for an upcoming increase of demand for the NHS property is slim. According to a December U.S. Commerce Department report, sales of houses similarly priced to Paley’s 274 Edgewood Ave. have dropped steadily over the last year by about 60 percent. Economists say the dip is directly caused by, among other things, expectations of lower housing prices, contraction of the loan markets and layoffs; many families now worry about keeping a steady paycheck in order to buy food, let alone purchase a new, or even reduced-cost home.

To be sure, the drama behind King’s house may have some impact on buyers, a couple city officals said. City officials condemned the property in 2006 because 11 tenants were stuffed in the one-family home. Officials began investigations after King was arrested earlier that year for confronting a young tenant and violating a protective order against him. King resigned as alderman in March 2007 and pleaded guilty a month later to third-degree assault charges.

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