Plan Seeks Homes to Sell to Low-Income Renters
Group would purchase, rehabilitate property owned by Absentee Landlords
By JAMES HEANEY
News Staff Reporter
September 07, 1993
An idealistic developer, together with a cadre of neighborhood
activists, is launching an ambitious program to buy out absentee landlords,
rehabilitate the properties and sell them to low-income renters who want to
own their own home.
If that's not enough, the group also intends to hire several dozen
neighborhood residents to make the necessary repairs, organize block clubs
in the neighborhoods they buy in and transform vacant lots into small parks
and community gardens.
The group is optimistic that it can turn around at least 50 houses within a
year and 500 over the next five years.
The non-profit group, Neighbors Inc., is a marriage between developer Frank
Parlato Jr. and a collection of sometimes militant neighborhood activists
in the Broadway-Fillmore area.
Parlato has bought, rehabilitated and sold several hundred houses to city
residents in the past five years. He is best known for his "green"
development practices in the suburbs, where he has retained large portions
of his subdivisions as nature preserves and tried to sell pristine land to
townships so the property is used as parks rather than subdivisions.
His activist partners in the non-profit venture include Robert Sienkiewicz,
executive director of Broadway-Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services, and
Robert Meldrum, best known for his work picketing the homes of slumlords.
"We're making a call to absentee property owners: We are ready, willing and
able to buy every single absentee-owned property that is offered at a fair
price," said Parlato.
The approach of Neighbors Inc. is distinctive in several ways from current
It doesn't involve any government money.
Parlato is underwriting the program with about $ 90,000 in equity and said
he has made arrangements for up to $ 600,000 in additional financing.
Profits from the sale of rehabilitated houses will be used to sustain the
It is targeted more at poorer families than most established programs.
Parlato and Meldrum said they will target families with annual incomes of $
12,000 to $ 25,000.
Renovated houses, most of which will be doubles, will sell for $ 20,000 to
The group also will explore hiring welfare clients as part-time repairmen
and using the income as a down payment to help them buy a home that would
be paid for with their housing allowance. When the house is sold, the
government would recoup its housing allowance through the sale proceeds.
Development of green space, which Parlato termed a big part of the program.
"Wherever we can, we will buy vacant lots and plant trees," he said. "Half
our money will be invested in houses and the other half for planting trees,
developing gardens and creating access to beautiful things in the city."
The group intends to buy only property from absentee owners and from the
government. It has bought its first house, a double at 124 Ruhland Ave.
The group's target area is bounded by William Street on the south, Bailey
Avenue on the east, Jefferson Avenue on the west and Delavan Avenue on the
north, although it remains interested in absentee-owned houses on the West
Side and in the Kensington-Bailey area.
Prospective buyers, sellers and employees can reach Neighbors Inc. at
Once applicants are deemed "bankable," the group will work with them to
obtain mortgages. Selected banks in the area have set aside mortgage money
for buyers of modest means, and Neighbors Inc. intends to work primarily
with those banks.
The Neighbors Inc. program is the second major housing initiative announced
in the past week. The city, in conjunction with a network lead by Chief
City Judge Frank A. Sedita Jr., is launching a "dollar and a dream"
homesteading program this month that will involve the city's renovating and
selling abandoned houses to owner occupants.
Contact Frank Parlato Jr.