"I wouldn't, not in this area, even if I had the cash to buy a house," Jenkins said. There are too many drug problems in the neighborhood, he said.
But his wife, Debbie, said she would take advantage of the low-interest mortgage offer if she could afford it.
Up to 40 families could be aided by the one-time offer from the state, said Sue DuPont, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Families could save about $2,000 a year on mortgage payments through the program, officials said. The program offers a 4 percent interest rate - about half the going rate - for up to 97 percent of 30-year loans or $126,300, officials said.
The state's offer is open for 18 months to eligible applicants who want to buy a home in one of three city neighborhoods.
- The area bordered by Linganore Avenue, West Side Avenue, Summer Street and South Burhans Boulevard to the Conrail line.
- From Church Street to the railroad at Pennsylvania Avenue and from North Prospect Street to Potomac Avenue, but not including Potomac Avenue.
- From Bester Elementary School to McComas Street and from North Cannon Avenue to Potomac Avenue, but not including Potomac Avenue.
"If I was looking for a home, it would not be in the West End or down through here," said Hazel Parson, 46, of 102 W. Bethel St.
Parson said she feared a home in the North Jonathan Street area would have little resale value.
She said she rents a home in the neighborhood only because the rent is so much cheaper. She said she pays $97 a month compared to other areas where rent is between $200 and $400 a month.
But not everyone is so down on buying a home in those neighborhoods.
Parson's neighbor, Deborah Thomas, said she was interested in taking advantage of the new low-interest mortgage program.
"It'll give people something to really strive for," said Thomas, 40, of 310 N. Jonathan St. After being a renter her entire life, Thomas said she wants to own a home on Cannon Avenue.
Gloria Davis, 41, of Burger Avenue, also said she was interested in the low-interest loan.
"I think it will help people establish homes instead of renting," Davis said.
Hagerstown and state officials are hoping the program will increase homeownership in the targeted areas. Homeownership helps stabilize neighborhoods because people take more pride in property they own, officials said.
City officials targeted those three neighborhoods because they had the lowest homeownership rates in the city, said George Andreve, manager of the city's Department of Community Development.
Homeownership rates in the targeted areas range from 20 percent to 40 percent, Andreve said.
Participants cannot rent out the house, and if they move they must pay the mortgage back in full at the time of the move.
To be eligible for the low-interest rate, the maximum annual income for households of one or two people is $69,360, officials said. The maximum annual income for households with three or more members is $80,920.
Applicants must have 30 percent of their gross income available to pay the loan's principal, interest, taxes and insurance.
They must have 40 percent of their gross income available to pay the loan's principal, interest, taxes, insurance and long-term debt such as car and credit card payments.
Any lender qualified by the Federal Housing Administration can take applications for the loans.
To find a qualified lender, call your real estate agent, bank, mortgage company or the Hagerstown Department of Community Development at 301-739-8577, ext. 136.