Residents Skeptical Over Southwood Neighborhood Purchase

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

May 3, 2006

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville plans to purchase and rebuild the Southwood Mobile Home Park, but residents say they're skeptical about the idea.

Residents received a letter in the mail yesterday explaining some of the details about the sale. For some, it was the first time they heard about it, and they are concerned because they are unsure how it will all affect them. Habitat Officials say it is still too early to answer a lot of those questions.

"I've talked to many of the residents [who] have said 'I have no place to go,'" said Brenda Kowgill.

Kowgill, a 15-year resident of the Southwood Mobile Home community rents her lot for $230 a month. She's worried her credit score or income would disqualify her from purchasing a Habitat for Humanity home.

"We live at such cheap rates now, apartments cost a lot of money a month," said Kowgill.

On Tuesday Habitat officials announced plans to buy Southwood's 100-acre property. The deal means that over the next few years all 371 mobile homes will be replaced with apartments or town homes. The idea is for residents to continue living there. Mortgage payments on a Habitat home are about $300 a month.

"If people are making their payments and following the rules, we certainly want to work with them," said Overton McGehee, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville.

Which means low-income residents with bad credit could possibly still live in Southwood. They would just have to rent the home for a few years before buying it. Their rent could also be adjusted according to income. Those options will be considered through an extended study that will include community feedback.

"We hope to have many meetings with the community. We want the residents to help us plan the future of Southwood," said McGehee.

Kowgill's says she appreciates the idea, just as long as she knows she and other residents won't be left homeless.

"It's not much, but it's our place, it's our home," said Kowgill.

Habitat Officials still have to raise the $1 million down payment they need to purchase the property. They said it could be years before they break ground.

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