Peachtree Hills could get money for face-lift

The Charlotte City Council will consider a proposal tonight to spend nearly $449,000 to help rehabilitate a neighborhood hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

Earlier this spring, a Durham-based community development organization announced plans to buy up to 25 vacant homes in Peachtree Hills as a way to boost homeownership in the neighborhood.

So far, Self-Help has purchased three homes in the subdivision and could have one ready for lease-purchase by early July, said Evan Covington Chavez, director of residential real estate development.

She said Self-Help also now has a representative on the homeowner association's board and has met with the group a couple times.

Peachtree Hills, in northwest Charlotte, is one of the city's highest foreclosure areas, according to an Observer analysis.

City and county records showed about 40 of the subdivision's 147 homes were vacant in January and at least 42 properties have gone through a foreclosure or been owned by a bank since 2003.

The subdivision also has seen spikes in crime.

In April, the City Council approved a foreclosure plan that includes the Peachtree Hills project, as well as efforts to better educate and reach out to other homeowners who may need help.

Tonight's proposal would spend money to upgrade some homes in Peachtree Hills, as well as repair lighting, sidewalks and streets and other landscape projects, said Stanley Watkins, the city's neighborhood development director.

The city would reallocate money for the project from existing funds.

Watkins said Self-Help is contributing about $2 million towards the Peachtree Hills project.

Self-Help is targeting a variety of homeowners through its program in Peachtree Hills, Covington Chavez said, including first-time homeowners or those who have gone through foreclosure. Tenants would receive counseling to prepare them to take over the mortgage for their home.

She said tenants would pay a rent higher than their mortgage, but the extra money would cover the counseling, and contribute towards the down payment and other costs when a person is ready to close on the property.

The Peachtree Hills project is considered a pilot effort, but officials said they could expand the program to other neighborhoods if it is successful.