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Sue Guinn Legg

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Making a house a home: Project revitalizes city residence

August 16th, 2011 10:54 pm by Sue Guinn Legg

East Unaka Avenue has lost an eyesore and will soon gain three new renters with the completion of renovations to an apartment house that four months ago was on the brink of condemnation.
Eastern Eight Community Development Corp. purchased and began work on the house at 400 East Unaka in April with funds awarded to the city of Johnson City through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization grant program.
Anne Cooper, Eastern Eight’s deputy director, said the property was owned by the late Stanley Keebler and had sat empty for some time when the city’s Dwelling and Standards Board deemed it blighted and subject to condemnation and possible demolition last spring. Instead, Eastern Eight obtained the property from Keebler’s heirs and began work to restore the old home.
Four months later, with the exterior work complete, the lead paint abated, new wiring and plumbing, including fire sprinklers, things are looking much brighter at the corner of Unaka and Oak Street at Interstate 26.
L&L Drywall workers are on the job this week and Cooper believes the property, which will include one four-bedroom apartment on the lower level and two two-bedroom apartments upstairs, will be ready to rent by October.
While Eastern Eight’s primary mission is to provide affordable housing for low to moderate income individuals and families at or below 80 percent of the “area median income,” which ranges from $35,200 for a household of one to $50,200 for a family of four, Cooper said this property is different. Because the funds for its restoration came from the city through the Neighborhood Stabilization program, the apartments may be leased to any renter with an income up to 120 percent of the region’s AMI,
At the maximum, she said rent for the four- and two-bedroom units will be set at $890 and $589 respectively. All proceeds beyond costs, including the property’s acquisition, rehabilitation, maintenance and administration, will go back to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development through Eastern Eight.
Meanwhile, Eastern Eight’s work to provide affordable homes for ownership and for lease to low- to moderate-income families continues.
Since its inception in 1998, Cooper said, Eastern Eight has built or rehabilitated a total of 229 housing units, including two new subdivisions built in Johnson City since 2006, and 19 homes sold and seven homes leased across the region last year. Its programs also include home-buyer and home ownership education, financial counseling, mortgage pre-approval and foreclosure prevention and counseling for residents of Washington, Sullivan, Greene, Carter, Unicoi, Johnson, Hawkins and Hancock counties.
More information about Eastern Eight housing opportunities, including the new apartments on Unaka, can be found online at or by calling 232-5097.

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