Housing Program Gets Local Law Enforcement Officers Into Tacoma Homes – and Neighborhoods

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced that three Tacoma area corrections officers have recently become Washington’s newest law enforcement officers to buy homes at a 50 percent discount under the agency’s anti-crime and community revitalization initiative called the Officer Next Door Program.The three Tacoma properties were sold to Jeff Kassler and Scott Harris of Washington’s Department of Corrections and Mark Okono of the Federal Probation Department.A pilot OND program began offering homes to officers in 1997 and in 1998 the program was expanded. The three newest Tacoma officers make a total of 7 law enforcement officers in Washington who have bought a house under the OND program.The Officer Next Door initiative is open to law enforcement officers in areas classified by HUD as revitalization areas. Such areas are economically distressed but have the potential to be revitalized.Each participating officer must sign a contract agreeing to live in the home purchased for at least three years. Tacoma and Spokane are the only two cities in Washington which currently have designated revitalization areas.Having the opportunity to acquire a HUD home allowed me to get back on my feet again and to have something to look forward to in the future, Kasler said. I moved from a two bed room apartment to a two bedroom house on the Eastside. My 16 year old daughter who lives with me is happy to have a house to call her own. As a result of the low cost of acquiring the house, I am planning to remodel by adding an entryway, a laundry room and enlarging the dining area.Harris is recently divorced with two small children. He was born and raised in the same area of south Tacoma where he bought his OND house.I now live two miles from my mom who is still living in the house where I grew up, Harris said. Buying into the OND was like coming back home.Okono found out about the OND program from a friend. The house he bought had been vacant for a year and was structurally sound, but needed cosmetic work. Without the OND program he would have had to wait another couple of years in order to get a down payment together. The neighbors are great and have been very nice; they all came over and introduced themselves, Okono said. There are lots of kids for my five year old son to play with. All of the homeowners have been in the neighborhood for a while and the houses are well maintained. If you get good people out there to care about their homes, it’s going to work.The three local officers helped each other through the purchase process and have said they are willing to be mentors to other officers interested in purchasing a home through the program.HUD has a toll-free number for law enforcement officers interested in participating in the initiative: 1-800-217-6970. Qualifying officers receiving an FHA-insured mortgage can buy homes with a down payment of only $100.Interested officers can also visit www.hud.gov/ond/ond.html.”