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Our City Reading, Inc

Committed to Revitalizing Reading, Pennsylvania

Home Restoration Program History

In 1999, Albert Boscov, CEO emeritus of Boscov's Department Stores, Inc., assembled a group of businesspeople, bankers, and manufacturers and challenged them to join an effort to stop the blight that was attacking the City of Reading, evident by the rapidly growing number of abandoned houses in every section of the City. That small group expanded to include the Mayor and representatives of the City of Reading, representatives of Neighborhood Housing Services, the Hispanic Center, Opportunity House (a shelter for the homeless) the Reading Housing Authority, and other segments of the community.

The City of Reading obtained an Asset Control Area (ACA) contract with HUD and turned administrative duties over to Our City Reading. A subsidy was developed to assist the cost of rehabilitating the homes, and to make up the difference between the sales prices and the actual costs of rehabilitating the properties. Our City Reading began acquiring abandoned homes through HUD, Pennsylvania Finance Agency foreclosures or County tax sales and totally rehabilitating them. The costs of buying and remodeling the homes has been underwritten by grants from the City of Reading Block Grant program, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburg, Wachovia Bank, Citizens Bank, Federal and State of Pennsylvania grants; and other community resources.

Under the rules of the program, homes may be sold only to first-time home buyers who have been employed at least one year and have acceptable credit rating. A $500 down payment is required. Teachers, policemen/women are given preference.

Several area banks are participating in the program, by offering 30-year mortgages at rates below the current market rates. They include Sovereign Bank, Leesport Bank, Penn First Financial division of National Penn Bank, Citizens Bank, and Penn Sterling Bank. These low interest loans, and the subsidies offered, make it possible for a renter to move into a totally restored home for less than the total expenses they were paying as a renter.