Agency helps make homeownership a reality

ROCHESTER — Ibero-American Development Corp. will take on a new affordable-housing project that will continue its 20-year mission of converting empty lots or abandoned properties into well-maintained homes that help rejuvenate city neighborhoods.

"We make dreams come true," said Eugenio Marlin, IADC’s executive director. "And we help everyone. But mainly, we focus our efforts to making sure the Hispanic community is aware of the existence of these (affordable-housing) projects."

Pedro Ramos is someone who did not think it would have been possible to buy a house when he moved here from Puerto Rico eight years ago. His credit had been damaged by a car purchase, he explained. After a friend referred him to IADC, he said that staff there helped him fix his credit and find a home. They also guided Ramos and his wife, Carmen, through the mortgage-application process, he said.

As a result of IADC’s help, the couple purchased a house on Resolute Street last year, he added.

"Esa es una buen idea que las oficinas de Ibero ayudan a uno," comentó Ramos. "Así la gente pueden comprar casas."

The nonprofit agency was originally created 23 years ago to manage the properties held by the Ibero-American Action League, its affiliate organization, Marlin explained. IADC moved into the construction arena in 1994 with the construction of Los Pinos duplexes in Geneva. Then in 1998, the agency built the Jorge Cólon Carrión Family Center at 777 Clifford Ave., which houses Ibero’s child-care and children’s services. One of the buildings the agency also refurbished was donated decades ago by the Diocese of Rochester on Clifford Avenue near Hudson Avenue. The agency completed that two-year project in 2000, and the building currently houses Ibero’s Maria Eugenio de Hostas Charter School, he said.

In recent years IADC has transformed a large parcel of land that stretches from Clifford Avenue to Avenue A near North Clinton Avenue, Marlin added.

On that parcel, which had been home to the former Giodarno Lumber and Leo J. Roth Corp., now sits a building that houses Ibero’s developmental-disabilities division, a new thrift store at 200 Clifford Ave. in what was the lumber yard’s showroom building, new homes built for developmental-disabilities clients and a 30-unit senior-citizen apartment complex, he noted.

In collaboration with the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership, the organization also rehabilitates HUD houses that are then sold to qualifying families.

"The intention is of stabilizing neighborhoods, but we have an ulterior motive in the way of stabilizing families," Marlin said of IADC’s mission. "The neighborhood issue is always part of a bigger mission as a community-development organization."

IADC has refurbished 122 homes since 2000 that have sold in the $65,000 to $75,000 range, said Jean Lowe, president of the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership. The IADC is one of several developers the partnership works with for its HOME programs and one of its biggest producers of refurbished houses, she added.

The HOME program has two beneficiaries, she noted. One is the homeowner — who most times qualifies for first-time homebuyer programs that IADC guides them through — who now is able to live in a renovated, energy-efficient house. The other beneficiary is the community.

"You now have committed homeowners as neighbors," Lowe noted. "It really makes an impact on the street."

With its latest development project, the 24-home El Camino Estates, IADC also is boosting its considerable investment in the Clifford Avenue area with new construction, Lowe added. IADC has partnered with Rochester’s Cornerstone Group and a private investor and hopes to break ground in the spring, Marlin said.

"It shows a real commitment to an individual neighborhood," Lowe said.

Carol Wheeler, housing manager for Rochester’s business and housing development office, agreed. The city also participates in the HOME program by purchasing vacant properties or foreclosed homes that such nonprofit partners as IADC then refurbish and prepare for sale.

She said that it’s important to note that in addition to offering affordable single-family home options, IADC’s work also includes managing and refurbishing rental properties.

"You need both," Wheeler said. "Homeownership helps stabilize neighborhoods. But also really good, attractive, affordable rentals also help to stabilize neighborhoods as well improve aesthetics."

Heather Tianello, who purchased an IADC-refurbished home in 2007, agreed.

"They really do a lot of work for a lot of different situations," she said of IADC. "Low-income housing and homeowners as well and renters. A lot of different options, which I think is great. And they make it very easy (to purchase a home)."

The main difficulty Sabrina Carter faced when purchasing a home was exhibiting patience when she found her dream house last year on Kingsboro Street in Rochester’s 19th Ward. After 14 years of renting, Carter said that she was ready to own her own home.

When Carter first saw her house, the word "Ibero" in the window caught her attention and she called IADC right away, she said. She was told the three-bedroom house wasn’t even on the market yet, but she went ahead and began working with IADC staff to be pre-approved for a mortgage as a first-time homebuyer.

"I knew that house was mine," Carter remarked. "I was really going on faith."

The agency’s homebuyer program is a blessing for the community, she added.

"It gives you a chance," she said. "Even for those who might have made a mistake, might have erred and had bad credit or loss of a job. The bank will not approve of them because of past mistakes. They’re good people but can’t pay their bills.This is a program that gives them a sense of hope. There are people out there wiling to give you a second chance, help you save, get money you need … and steer you in the right direction."

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