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Homeowner says charity homes lowered property values

Neighborhood density, other factors blamed for values plummeting

MADISON, Wis. - A Madison homeowner said Habitat for Humanity housing is making it tough to live in her neighborhood and impossible to leave it.

Autumn Neugent owns a home in a predominantly Habitat neighborhood on the city's north side. House construction was taken over by the nonprofit after a private developer couldn't finish building in the neighborhood.

Neugent said when she built her house in 2007, it was assessed at $203,000. Now the home is assessed at $160,000, and she said the Habitat construction is at least partially to blame.

Neugent could not go on camera, but said the organization crammed more than 20 homes in her neighborhood, one of which was built right on her property line. She said she was promised a park, fence, and other neighborhood amenities. She said a constant change of personnel at Habitat has prevented those things from moving forward.

Neugent said her house has been broken into and people cut through her property on a constant basis. She has not tried to sell her house yet.

Habitat for Humanity of Dane County public relations coordinator Cheryl McCollum said the organization has to answer to property value concerns from people everywhere they build.

"Every time that we propose going into a neighborhood, we have had calls from people saying, 'We worry about our property values' or issues like that with Habitat," McCullom said. "But Habitat, we have our homes assessed. They are all assessed at market value. So it's really an unfounded concern because we're building new construction, and generally the homes -- well all of the homes -- are assessed at market value."

VIDEO: Homeowner says charity homes lowering property values

Neugent claimed the Habitat homes around her were assessed at $90,000, a little more than half of her home's assessed value.

"They may be a little bit less expensive," McCullom said, "but that's generally because the homes are smaller or may have one garage instead of two garages."

McCullom explained Habitat goes through a review and approval process with the city, and the north side project was no different.

"Unfortunately, since the housing market turned a few years ago, a lot of the neighborhoods in Madison have seen a decline in the number of assessments in market values, and that's reality," McCullom said. "It's not just here in Madison but it's here across the country. And we're hoping as the economy turns that we're going to see those assessments go back up."

District 18 Alder Anita Weier said the property value is more of a reflection of a greater trend than a product of the non-profit building houses there.

"People are worried about the drop in values, but I know why," Weier said. "It's because the prices has been lowered, and that affects nearby houses."

Madison's north side saw some of the worst drops in real estate values across the city in the last year, according to the latest assessments.

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