Tag Archives: CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance

Meet Ellen Jarrett

Chai Ground breaking

Twenty-three years ago, Ellen Jarrett, arrived at CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc., an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, to help the organization develop affordable senior housing. The organization had recently commissioned a study which determined a need for 1,500 units in Northwest Baltimore.

Ellen, who had recently received her Masters in Real Estate Development from Johns Hopkins University, and had some background working at HUD, brought knowledge on the development process to make this dream a reality. The first project she worked on for CHAI was Weinberg House, which opened 20 years ago.

From the beginning, it was a huge success. “I’ll never forget opening our first senior living community. I remember we had 1,000 applications for only 116 units. The northwest community hadn’t seen anything like this project. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Since then, Ellen has been involved with the development of CHAI’s 16 affordable senior housing projects.  We talked to Ellen about her role at CHAI and how senior housing has evolved in the past two decades.

Tell me about Weinberg House.
We wanted to provide state-of-the-art senior housing in the Jewish community. The first project we built was Weinberg House, 116 units for seniors, located near the Giant in Pikesville. We wanted to include technology so that individuals could live there as long as possible.

CHAI decided to offer a number of amenities to enable “aging in place” including implementing a congregate meal program and hiring staff to link residents to outside services. In the design of the building we decided to build public spaces so residents could socialize, and we put in showers even though that was not the trend in senior housing at the time. But we understood that having showers would make it easier for these individuals to age in place and be safe.
We also used BG&E incentives to make the project energy efficient, even before green was popular.

What else made Weinberg House special?
This was an apartment building for low-income seniors that didn’t look low income. They felt as if they were living in a market rate apartment building.

After Weinberg House, what were your next projects?
CHAI began to build senior living facilities every two years. We built Weinberg Terrace, Weinberg Woods and Weinberg Gardens. We knew, overall, we needed 1,600 units, but one of our primary sources of funding – funding from the HUD 202 program – was decreasing, which resulted in us having to build smaller projects, with fewer units. We were fortunate. CHAI developed a partnership with the Weinberg Foundation, , and we were able to secure funding from them as well as from the State of Maryland, Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Weinberg Village in Owings Mills?
We built five apartment buildings on the Owings Mills campus and we tweaked the design from some of our previous projects. We realized that it would be more appealing if we opened up the kitchen and living/dining area. We added green technologies and gave seniors pendants to wear to keep them safe. As technology became more efficient, we were able to add such things as video entrance systems.

I see CHAI was involved with a project outside its core market.
Yes. Last winter, in a partnership with Park Heights Renaissance, we opened Jean Yarborough Renaissance Gardens, a 60-unit independent living apartment complex for limited income seniors. It was the area’s first new construction project in over 10 years. Although not in our core neighborhood, we believe it’s important to focus on the neighborhoods around us. If they are strong, we are strong.

What’s next?
Weinberg Manor South, a 90-unit facility for low-income seniors, located in Upper Park Heights, opens this winter. We’re also beginning to develop small-scale housing for people with disabilities, buying existing homes and renovating them for- three people. And, CHAI is continuing to investigate ways to create affordable family housing in the area. We recently purchased a small complex of 13 units which we intend to renovate and preserve as affordable housing for families in our core service area.

What have you learned?
You never stop learning in this industry. Change continues with government funding and regulations.   We’ve learned how to look for other sources of funding and partnerships as federal government money dried up.
In addition, we learned to look at each project separately to determine what would make them most effective for seniors. Some, like Weinberg House, have a grocery store nearby, so we didn’t have to worry about transportation. When we built others, like Weinberg Village, we realized we needed to build a transportation program.
Learn more about Weinberg Senior Living.


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The Path to Homeownership


By Aryeh Goetz
Director of Neighborhood Investment
CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.

Becoming a homeowner can seem like a daunting experience.  CHAI can help make that experience easier.

Below are 10 basic steps to homeownership.


  • Learn the home buying process, the technical terms used and the housing professionals.
  • Attend a Home Buyer Workshop.
  • Scan the real estate section of the Sunday newspaper and search online.

Counseling: Meet with a housing counselor to:

  • Review credit report and scores.
  • Construct household budget and savings plan.
  • Determine employment status and annual household income.
  • Determine an affordability price range for home searching process.

Credit Review

  • Obtain a copy of your “in file” credit report.
  • Understand your FICO Ssore, which determines your credit risk to lenders.
  • Repair any credit problems or correct errors and close unnecessary lines of credit.
  • Pay all your bills ON TIME, at least for the last 12 months.


  • Apply with a lender (bank) for a pre-approval letter.
  • Determine if you will meet the criteria for a specific mortgage product or program.
  • Determine what interest rate, loan amount and monthly payment the lender can offer.

Home Selection

  • Look at houses to compare prices and features
  • Overall condition of property, number of bedrooms & baths, square footage, exterior and yard area.

Contract of Sale

  • The buyer presents the contract (offer) to the seller.
  • If using a realtor, the agent will prepare the contract. An “Earnest Money” check made out to the real estate firm should be given as a deposit to the agent (customarily $1,000).
  • In an FSBO (For Sale by Owner) property, the price is often agreed upon orally before the time and expense of submitting a written offer is expended.
  • In a FSBO property, a real estate lawyer or a title attorney can draw up the contract of sale. The earnest money deposit can be given to the attorney.

Home Inspection

  • Contact a home inspection firm to inspect the property within 14 days (or as stated in the contract).
  • Attend the home inspection and learn about the systems in the home.  A termite inspection is also necessary, within 30 days of settlement.


  • Submit a completed mortgage application to the lender.
  • Make an appointment with a loan officer.
  • Obtain the “tri-merge” credit report and score, and the home appraisal.

Settlement (or Closing):  The steps to take legal ownership of the property.

  • Set a date, time and place to sign the deed and legal papers, exchange the funds and receive the keys. A “walk through” of the property should take place within the three days before settlement. All parties must receive a signed copy of the settlement sheet, which is a HUD-1 Settlement Statement.

Move in and Post Purchase:  Prepare the new home for living.

  • Make sure the final reading for gas and electric utilities are scheduled at least three days prior and the phone, cable and internet service will be activated.
  • Find out the days for trash and recycling collection.
  • File change of address to forward mail with the post office OR online at usps.com.
  • Re-key locks.

Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. (CHAI) and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore have created programs to help people find their path to affordable and sustainable homeownership. Visit chaibaltimore.org to learn all about CHAI’s available Housing Services and Loan Programs.



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12 Ways to Save Green by Going Greener

by Shelley Weinreb
Marketing Coordinator for CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.


I drive a stick shift. When people ask me why, I tell them I remember waiting for hours in the gas lines of the 70’s, during which I vowed to switch to a manual to save on mileage. Those were the early days of ‘green’ when you read books like “Silent Spring,” protested against DDT and talked about saving the environment and the whales. Back then, ‘climate change’ was a description of Baltimore’s weather. We worried more about ecology than the economy. And green was cool.

Four decades later, green is not only still cool, it’s red hot. But from my standpoint now, saving money on next month’s utility bill looms larger in immediate importance than my global concerns. Which is why, in many ways, I’m greener today than I was in high school.

The Color of Money

Now more than ever, green makes sense. (Or should I say…cents.) And our community offers many excellent resources to help us reap the savings. Here are a dozen things you can do to begin reducing your energy expenses:

1. Sign up for a free Quick Home Energy Check. If you’re a BGE customer, you can call 1-877-685-7377 to schedule an appointment for a Check-Up professional to perform a free, one-hour walk-through of your home to show how you can save money by reducing the amount of energy you use. For details, bgesmartenergy.com/residential/quick-home-energy-check.

2. Lower your thermostat a few degrees in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs.

3. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) when your incandescent bulbs burn out.

4. Unplug appliances when not in use. Or, use a “smart” power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts “phantom” or “vampire” energy use.

5. Choose the cold water setting to wash clothes. Heating the water uses as much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes.

6. Reduce water consumption by taking shorter showers. This will lower your water and heating bills, too.

7. Install a low-flow showerhead. You’ll quickly pay back your investment (and more) in water and energy savings.

8. Put a faucet aerator on each faucet. For very little money, you can conserve heat and water, while keeping water pressure high.

9. Buy an affordable, fuel efficient car. Do you know your car’s mpg rating? With gas approaching $4 a gallon and more, it really pays to get the most out of your gas tank.

10. Sign up for a free water audit from Blue Water Baltimore. Visit bluewaterbaltimore.org to take advantage of this free analysis. For more information, contact 410-254-1577 x106 or http://dpuzey@bluewaterbaltimore.org.

11. Carpool. Share the ride…share the savings…ease traffic…reduce emissions.

12. Weatherize your home with CHAI’s help. Did you know CHAI offers weatherization improvements and services to help organizations and homeowners save money and energy…from upgrading insulation to cleaning HVAC systems? Call 410-500-5303 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Plus, CHAI has recently been awarded a grant from the Maryland Public Service Commission to provide low-interest ‘Energy Home Improvement’ loans to homeowners in the five northwest Baltimore City neighborhoods of Glen, Fallstaff, Cross Country, Cheswolde and Mt. Washington. CHAI hopes to open the program to the public by July 1, 2013. Call 410-466-1990 for details.

As you can see, there are many ways and resources available to add green to our lives, perhaps because we need them now more than ever. Best of all, they work on a micro and a macro level at the same time…helping both our wallet and our world.

It’s nice to know we’re still green after all these years.

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CHAI Brings Hope and Help to Clients with Disabilities

SHRD 2009 004

Through its Senior Home Repair and Housing Benefits Services

By Rona Gross
Home Benefits Coordinator
CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.

Framed in my office here at CHAI is a photograph of three purple crocuses breaking through the snow and ice-covered ground, the first sign of spring and all its potential. This picture is an apt metaphor for the life challenges of CHAI clients with disabilities. Often faced with environments that seem ill-suited for their needs and which present obstacles to realizing their potential, these individuals look to CHAI to assist them in chiseling away at the encroaching challenges and working to create a home environment in which they can flower.

CHAI currently serves individuals with physical disabilities, such as those resulting from progressive neurodegenerative disorders or other illnesses, accident, injury and trauma, as well as those living with blindness or deafness. We are assisting clients struggling with psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, and OCD as well as hoarding disorders. We also provide services to families with developmentally disabled adult children, suffering from Asperger’s or other conditions along the autistic spectrum, whose living situation is no longer workable or appropriate. At the present time, about 15 percent of vulnerable Senior Home Repair clients are non-elderly disabled or elderly individuals whose primary presenting problem is their disability as distinct from other age-related changes.

CHAI clients with disabilities usually are grappling with challenges in multiple areas of their lives simultaneously. The problem with which they come to us and which is in the forefront of our work often pertains to the suitability and safety of their home physical environment. At the same time, more often than not, they are attempting to meet these challenges within a context of significant financial constraint and often with cognitive and/or emotional responses that are counterproductive and cause further complications.

We assist individuals with disabilities in a number of ways. Through the SHR program, we provide home repairs, done by our own repairman or outside contractors. We may fix concrete to even out the walkway for a client with an MS-like illness or secure a handrail down to the basement for an individual whose disability includes an unsteady gait. We also provide home repairs unrelated to the disability with the goal of maintaining a home environment which is safe and in good condition.

We facilitate occupational therapy referrals and assist financially and practically in purchasing and installing safety equipment such as grab bars and hand-held showers. When a client’s condition has resulted in their being overwhelmed or confused regarding their bills and paperwork, we consider providing professional organization services. We offer assistive devices to enhance safety, such as reachers. One of our clients can now open her bathroom window using this device from the safety of the floor, rather than climb onto the edge of her bathtub. At times, we assist with appliance purchases, researching products that maximize our client’s access and independent usage.

Secondary to our work on the physical environment, we often need to become involved in some of the financial quandaries of individuals with disabilities. In assessing their eligibility for low income home modification programs, we often find that they have failed to take advantage of other government and private programs for which they may be eligible. At times, we assist them in application completion for these benefits as well.

Finally, we refer our clients with disabilities to the Baltimore Cash Campaign, Jewish Community Services, Ahavas Yisroel and Mesila for in-depth assistance with benefits eligibility, budgeting and related issues as well as financial assistance. At times, I have referred individuals to our Foreclosure Prevention Program, when their disabilities have resulted in their inability to pay their mortgage and the beginning of foreclosure proceedings on their home.

CHAI clients with disabilities – physical, psychiatric, and developmental – face a number of challenges in accessing, maintaining, affording and modifying their home environments to meet their needs. We work as their advocate, in the words of one professional, recognizing the disabilities, but emphasizing the possibilities.

Although the soil in which these clients have been planted often seems cold and unyielding, CHAI’s Senior Home Repair &Modification program strives to cultivate and maintain a safe and accessible haven where our clients can continue to blossom and grow.

Volunteer for Good Neighbor Day April 21 and help seniors and individuals with disabilities maintain their properties>>

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