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Inner-city homeownership program builds good will

For the first time in his life, 8-year-old Jarvis Ball Jr. has a yard to play in _ both front and back. His parents have a home, not the cramped apartment they shared for years. On Tuesday, the Ball family moved into their first house _ a white, three-bedroom bungalow in Sulphur Springs _ thanks to a new city program that makes the dream of homeownership a reality.

"There's nothing better. There's no feeling to replace the feelings of having your own home," said Jarvis Ball Sr. as he sat on the couch in his new living room.

"The faces of the homeowners tells the real story," said Mayor Sandy Freedman on Tuesday as she toured the Balls' new home.

At least 50 to 100 low-cost houses will be built under the mayor's Infill Housing Program in the next nine months, according to Fernando Noriega, manager of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. The program places the new homes in older city neighborhoods for families, such as Betsy and Jarvis Ball.

The Balls bought their $43,000 house with the help of low-cost loans.

Part of the city's Challenge Fund, the Infill program brings together private lending institutions with city action to finance housing for low- to moderate-income individuals. Usually, such loans have been used to renovate older houses. Freedman said the Infill program is the first step in revitalizing neighborhoods with new homes, not just renovated ones.

"I think it's a great project," said Freedman, who has made affordable housing a priority in her administration.

John Dunn, spokesman for the mayor, said the program ensures that houses are built on inner-city lots that probably never would be built on.

"It causes a ripple effect, and you'll see improvements in other parts of the neighborhood," he said. "We have seen the ripple effect."

For the first time in 30 or 40 years new construction will be occurring in inner-city neighborhoods, Noriega said.

Jarvis Jr. doesn't understand all the money talk. But he does appreciate the benefits.

"I've got my own room," he said. "Now I can go outside and play in my back yard."

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