On a cold, below-freezing day in February 2007, 37-year-old Raymond McCullough (who is a salesman with K-Mart), his wife, Tori and their two daughters, Amari (11) and Narian (7) stood at the door of the end of row house on Jack Street in Brooklyn (Baltimore City), in stunned disbelief. Two years ago they had begun the journey that took them to this day: a home of their own—lovely, fully-furnished and functional two stories, with modern day amenities; living room and kitchen downstairs, three bedrooms upstairs, comparable to any home its size in the suburbs–at a monthly cost approximately $800 a month less than market rate. No wonder the McCulloughs’ stared at their new home in disbelief that long-ago day in February 2007.
The McCullough’s story is one that leads through years of uncertain living, first in Annapolis, then in Glen Burnie, with violence and in housing that was unaffordable, to a home with Arundel Habitat For Humanity, a non-profit that creates affordable housing through renovation, new construction, and sweat equity, and sells the properties at no interest to low income families living in substandard and inadequate housing in the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay communities in Baltimore City, and in Anne Arundel County. The McCullough family was lucky enough to be in and among this in-need population.
Arundel Habitat follows the national Habitat model, supervising volunteer crews to perform the majority of work on each house, including framing, demolition and finish work. The plumbing, heating and ventilation systems and roofing are installed by licensed contractors. Arundel Habitat attempts to finish basements as additional living space when ceiling height allows. New Energy Star-rated appliances, high efficiency heat pumps and replacement windows are installed to maximize energy-efficiency and reduce energy bills.
The McCulloughs appeared for work most every Saturday and some Wednesdays for the nearly six months of work it took to bring the house, a ragged shell when they started to work on it, to the point where it was perhaps the most attractive house inside and out on the block. Mr. McCullough says, “I never knew all the things you could do with a hammer. When we first saw this house–bare walls open to the weather, no second floor, wind blowing through empty windows, and realized that we are really moving in and this house was ours, well, I knew, work and prayer made it happen!” Dan Ellis, Executive Director of Arundel Habitat added, “We are very proud of our volunteers and our families. They work incredibly hard to achieve the dream of homeownership.”
Last year the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development, impressed with Arundel Habitat’s production of affordable housing, transferred 16 vacant city-owned houses in Brooklyn to Arundel Habit at nominal prices. In the transaction, user-friendly arithmetic happens: the McCulloughs pay only $382 a month to Habitat, after paying only $500 down. A typical bank-financed arrangement, Mr. McCullough says, he discovered after researching, would be more like $1,100 a month payments, and a $3,000 to $5,000 down payment.
In 2006, The Abell Foundation provided a $40,000 grant to Arundel Habitat to encourage them to turn their attention to three streets in Brooklyn, just across the Baltimore City line from Anne Arundel County, where they had operated for 18 years. The grant was intended to pay for staff and construction costs for the renovation of three houses to be sold to low income buyers. Since the grant was approved, Arundel Habitat exceeded expectations, raising funding for and completing renovations of a total of 24 vacant houses in Brooklyn, and selling each house to a low income household with no-interest fixed payment mortgages.
Abell Salutes Arundel Habitat For Humanity and its Executive Director, Dan Ellis, and a work-and-prayer formula that puts families like the McCulloughs into beautiful, and beautifully renovated, homes like the McCulloughs’, now of Jack Street, in Brooklyn, in Baltimore City, Maryland.