WASHINGTON – Cheverly officials gave the go-ahead Tuesday to buy three run-down houses from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, less than a month after the town sued HUD for neglecting the properties.
The Town Council voted 5-0 to approve the purchase, but under state law, the town must go through a waiting period before actually buying the houses. Cheverly officials are already looking for buyers who will be willing to start work on the houses as soon as the deal is done.
“I can almost bet the house on it that we’ll go to settlement,” said Town Administrator David W. Warrington. “I’m reasonably sure everyone in Cheverly will be glad to see this. We’ll be getting our money back and cleaning up the properties.”
Cheverly officials filed the lawsuit because they said repeated efforts to get HUD to repair and sell five houses it owned in the town went unnoticed. Officials at HUD headquarters — just 8 miles from the Prince George’s County suburb — previously attributed the problems to miscommunication.
Things changed after the suit came to the agency’s attention. One of the homes was sold and a second was placed under contract. The remaining houses received some repairs and were offered to Cheverly under an existing program that lets local governments buy HUD homes at 70 percent of their appraised value.
“It seems like we’re coming out with a positive solution here,” said Matt Franklin, special assistant to the Federal Housing Authority commissioner. “This is a great program, and we’re happy to sell the houses to them.”
Cheverly officials will pay $35,000 for the house they had been most concerned about, at 6117 Landover Road. That house, which had been vacant for over five years, and two others will be resold to individuals or contractors who will be required to make major repairs.
“Our goal is not to make money,” Warrington said, adding that the buyers of each home will pay slightly more than the cost the town paid to acquire the properties. “We do need to make back our legal expenses though.”
Warrington estimated that about $2,000 would be added to the cost of each house to cover legal costs.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit continues on the advice of counsel, Warrington said. “We’re not going to withdraw it until we settle,” he said.
Franklin was surprised the town was not dropping the lawsuit, although he said he still expects that to happen.
Because the town must advertise the purchase of the homes, Warrington said, the earliest the sale can go through is Jan. 5 — which is the same day the 60-day deadline for HUD to respond to the lawsuit expires. The suit was filed Nov. 5.
“It’s going to be down to the wire,” Warrington said. “But we’re not just going to be waiting…. I’m going to make sure we’re ready to close the settlement.”