Delray Beach buys crack house in the Chatelaine subdivision as a fixer-upper

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- The city of Delray Beach is the proud owner of a crack house. But it won't let the blight last long.

The city plans on investing more than $30,000 on the four-bedroom, two bath home in the Chatelaine subdivision to bring the foreclosed home back to its original beauty — hoping to help rid the neighborhood of blight and assist a family that would otherwise have trouble buying a home.

For several years now, the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program has transformed the city's Community Improvement Department into a real estate investor.

Under the program, the city buys bank-owned houses, spends an average of $35,000 sprucing them up, and then sells them to first-time homebuyers or donates them to the Delray Beach Housing Authority or the Community Land Trust.

"This house is showing the impact a blighted home can have in a middle class neighborhood," said Nigel Roberts, Delray's Neighborhood Service Administrator. "This program helps with a lot of the frustrations the neighbors go through."

Unlike private investors, the city can go in and fix a home without getting additional financing and it also can expedite construction permits.

"Most investors put in enough to flip a house," Roberts said. "Most of these properties need a lot more done."

Delray Beach has moved quickly over the past two years to spend its $1.9 million federal grant, part of $27.7 million awarded to Palm Beach County.

It has bought all of the 18 homes required under the federal program. Eight of them have been sold and four homes and one duplex were donated to the Delray Beach Housing Authority.

Each rehab is unique and each home comes with its own set of problems. When the city buys a foreclosed home, it sometimes encounters problems such as mold, holes in the walls and storm damage, Roberts said.

The Chatelaine house is the last one the city will remodel under the program, although Roberts hopes he can keep the program going with more grants from the state or federal government.

The house had been used as a party spot: Condoms littered what was left of the kitchen countertop, holes in the walls had been used to stash drugs and the Florida room roof was ready to cave in from recent rains.

"The good thing is we can fix the gross part and make this a viable home for a nice family," said Stephen Lee, the city's housing rehabilitation inspector.

Clifford Durden, the Chatelaine Homeowners Association president, said the city has done an outstanding job at renovating homes.

"We are hoping that same thing happens with this house," Durden said. "We commend for recognizing it was creating blight and for making an effort to clean the place."

Glendon McBeen, who lives across the street from the house, said whatever the city does to it will be great for the neighborhood.

"It will be great for my property value," he said.

For more information about the Neighborhood Stabilization program and the houses the city has for sale contact Ferline Mesidort at 561-243-7000.

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