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Friday, Jan 18 2013 04:25 PM

Bank donates five local homes to Habitat for Humanity

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

Bank of America has donated five foreclosed homes to the Kern County branch of Habitat for Humanity as part of what is expected to be the largest ever contribution of property to the national nonprofit.

Roof replacement work has already begun on one of the houses, located in Bakersfield, while renovations on the homes in Wasco, Delano and Tehachapi should begin within four months, said Dennis Wallace, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Golden Empire.

"There's work to be done on all of them, but they're all nice houses in very nice neighborhoods," Wallace said, adding that each of the five was appraised at between $100,000 and $150,000.

"I'd say there's probably three to four months' worth of Saturdays in each of the houses." He declined to provide the homes' addresses, saying he doesn't want potential vandals to know they're vacant.

Bank of America transferred ownership of the first local property in October. A news release states that the lender expects to give Habitat up to 2,000 homes across the country over the next three years.

"This initiative makes affordable homes available in partnership with the families, at the same time that it combats neighborhood blight that may occur around vacant properties and helps to stabilize and revitalize communities," the bank's national mortgage outreach executive, D. Steve Boland, stated in the release.

Placing veterans or active duty military families in the homes is a stated preference but not a requirement for the local Habitat branch as well as Bank of America.

Wallace's group is still accepting purchase applications for all of the properties in Kern County.

To qualify for any of the homes, applicants must earn less than 60 percent of the area's median income, which Wallace said is about $30,000 a year. Also, he said, applicants must have a steady source of income, "halfway decent credit" and be willing to put in construction work on more than one Habitat home renovation.

He asked that would-be homebuyers and volunteers alike call the local Habitat branch at 861-8449.

Habitat for Habitat Golden Empire has completed work on three to four homes a year for the past 15 years.

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