The first visitors Derek Slocum welcomed to his new Whitfield Chapel Gardens home were a slew of government officials and newspaper and television reporters wielding cameras, tripods and notebooks.
Slocum, the winner of Prince George's County's Department of Housing and Community Development's (HCD) first House Lottery, had a chance to walk through his new home on Dec. 3. In June, Slocum's name was pulled from a raffle barrel during a housing fair. Since then he and his family have anxiously awaited the completion of extensive renovations to the foreclosed house.
After speeches by county officials and a ceremonial cutting of a red ribbon, Slocum toured the home wide-eyed and expressed his wonder.
"My wife is going to love this," he said while eyeing the amenity-rich kitchen. "We are very pleased by what we see, the neighborhood we are in and all the things that we see."
Since the drawing, the four-bedroom, two-bath split level home on a corner lot in Lanham has been taken down to the studs and retrofitted with energy-saving features such as a high-efficiency heating and air conditioning system, energy-efficient windows and appliances and other features that utilize less water and energy.The home also features contemporary lighting fixtures, a mosaic tile backsplash in the kitchen, a new fence and landscaping. Initially, the property had severe mold and water management issues which had to be addressed.
With the upgrades and improvements, the home is currently worth $250,000. Through the special lottery program, the couple will be able to purchase the home for $190,000.
"We are so pleased to award this home to a deserving family at such a substantially reduced price," said Eric C. Brown, director of HCD. "The home is a Green Energy Star 3 Home which means it is designed to help the homeowners save money on utility bills and protect the environment through improved building and energy performance. Under the Energy Star 3 standard, windows, doors and appliances must meet a certain level of energy efficiency and the house must be properly air-sealed and insulated to prevent heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. The utility cost on this green Energy Star 3 home is expected to be less than $200 per month for a family of four."
One official pointed out that the home is now 34 percent more energy efficient than a new home built to code.
Brown said the type of improvements in the home is now the standard for future housing department renovation projects.
Howard Ways III, executive director of Prince George's County's Redevelopment Authority, said his agency has renovated and sold 26 homes in Prince George's County and the ones they choose to work on are difficult.
"We take on tough projects," said Ways. "Tough projects that oftentimes the private sector ignores."
Officials added that the home demonstrates how a renovation can be made to look good even on a budget.
After the ribbon-cutting, Slocum walked through the home and marveled at the granite countertops in the kitchen and the newly sanded and polyurethane-treated floors. Slocum's wife Tuconya, who urged him to enter the lottery, couldn't be at the event due to jury duty.
The Slocums have five adult children and five grandchildren, but only one child lives at home with them along with Derek's 70-year-old mother. The family of four has been living in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home in Southeast. He said his family expects to move into their new home in January.
Rushern L. Baker III, county executive of Prince George's County, arrived at the home just after the ribbon cutting and was met at the door by Slocum.
"Boy, you are a lucky guy," said Baker as they shook hands.
Baker said "wow" repeatedly as he toured the home. "I want to move in."
Douglas Bowman, 80, who has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years, said he was pleased to see the previously distressed property, which sat vacant for so long, be transformed. He called it a gift to the neighborhood.
"I am very happy they are doing something like this," said Bowman. "It makes the neighborhood look better and keeps the community looking better."