"The idea to rescue Canal Banks and 10 other unstable areas nationwide relies on an idea – homeownership – that now might seem almost quaint, if not misguided. The Homeownership Zone (HOZ) demonstration program, launched in 1996 by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, has tried to turn entire neighborhoods around by flooding small, poverty-stricken areas with hundreds of new homes to be purchased by working-class, mostly first-time home buyers.
And it's an effort that seems to be working. Only a small handful of homes have gone into foreclosure – the result, administrators say, of extensive, mandatory pre-and postmortgage counseling that steered homeowners away from adjustable-rate loans.
'The intent was really to remake these neighborhoods, to give them some sort of identity,' says John Kromer, a senior consultant at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia's former director of housing. 'It was very ambitious.... It really was a radical departure from what had been done before.'"