By 2013, something that we had hoped would happen since the teacher apartments at Miller’s Court opened in 2009 was beginning to take place: many teachers who moved in as new residents of Baltimore decided they wanted to remain in the classroom and make this amazing city their permanent home. Many of them came to us and asked if Seawall could help them buy and renovate vacant and abandoned rowhomes in Remington so they could put down roots as homeowners in their new community. We have to admit, we loved that they wanted to call Baltimore home, but we had never considered working on rowhomes, let alone ones that had been vacant for years. So began our 30×13 project (that is, renovate 30 rowhomes in 2013). We focused on finding rowhomes in Remington, because both the teachers from Miller’s Court and the neighborhood pushed us to look at underutilized properties in the area. There was plenty of real estate that had been forgotten and vacated, bringing on a range of public health issues, not to mention, creating eyesores that didn’t reflect the vibrancy of the community. Our goal was to acquire and purchase 30 vacant and underutilized Remington rowhomes the teachers had identified and restore them to their former glory, then sell them at accessible prices to educators, many of whom were living at Miller’s Court. Though this was a project that didn’t fit into our typical development requirements, the reward of seeing people make an important investment in their community far outweighed the headaches that came from doing 30 custom, mini-development projects in collapsing old homes. And, we were also able to line up a maximum of $50,000 of assistance for each first-time homeowner through the generous help of many foundations and city programs. Those 30 homes sold fast, and we’re still cheering on the movement of teachers who came to us with so much pride in the work they were doing and the place they lived that they asked us to help them make Remington their permanent home.
After teaching in Baltimore for a number of years, and living in Miller’s Court for four of them, I was ready to really establish myself in the city. That’s when I heard about the rowhomes Seawall was doing in Remington. Originally, I didn’t take it too seriously or think it could be for me. But I started going through the process and was convinced it was the right thing to do. The resources available to us were amazing, and it was a great investment to be able to make.
I’m not sure what we would have done if this opportunity hadn’t come about. We would have stayed in Baltimore, but it was hard to find available homes in our budget. Now, we look in retrospect and see that we have an amazing home that was newly renovated by people we trusted, and we got it at an accessible price for us. I’m sure that there’s nowhere else in Baltimore where that would have been the case.
Former Baltimore City Public School Teacher and 30x13 Homebuyer
When Julie Oxenhandler moved to Baltimore from Seattle in 2009 to be a teacher in the city schools, she became a resident of the neighborhood of Remington and has remained so ever since. It turned out that her and the neighborhood were a fantastic fit for each other, and in our entirely unbiased opinion (full transparency: we love both Julie and Remington...a lot), everyone is better for it.
You moved into Miller’s Court when you came to Baltimore as a teacher in 2009. How did you feel about the neighborhood of Remington as you got to know it as a community member?
I really loved the vibe of Remington. It reminded me a lot of where I lived in Seattle, just unpolished but with a lot of character and diversity. I canvass a lot for different issues, and it’s the kind of place where you can knock on one door and meet someone who just moved there two months ago, then go to the next house and be with someone who has lived there for their entire lives; they might have even been born in that house! It’s been a wonderful community for a very long time.
How did you hear about the 30x13 rowhome project that Seawall was doing?
I loved the idea of setting down roots more permanently in Baltimore, and I was looking at houses in other neighborhoods around the time that I heard about the rowhomes that Seawall was buying to renovate in Remington. I started to think that could be my path to homeownership.
So how did you decide which of the available rowhomes you would buy and why?
One of the things I love most about Baltimore is the front porch culture, and so I asked if there were any where having a front stoop would be possible. There was one house (just one!) with a front porch and so that basically made the decision for me.
Was the process of actually buying the home easier than it would have been if you did it on your own?
Absolutely. Seawall coordinated a real estate agent for us, and at that point in my life, not a lot of my friends had purchased homes, so it wasn’t something I had a connection to. And, my parents had never owned a home, so I felt like I had even fewer people to turn to for help. The level of care that real estate agent, Michael Levine, put in was incredible. That kind of assistance, while being a full-time teacher, made me feel like I had a whole team of people on my side.
How has homeownership changed your perspective on your role in the community moving forward?
When you own a home, more so than renting, there’s this sense of responsibility that you feel both to take care of your own space, and also to be a part of making the community around you better. You become invested not only in your own experience in the neighborhood, but in how that experience is for others who pass through it and call it home.