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Federal grant gives some areas new hope

POSTED: March 20, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Hall County is slated to receive nearly $2.3 million for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The funding allows local governments to use the grants to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed residential property for resale to families in an effort to stabilize neighborhoods.

“This program is somewhat unique,” said Brian Williamson, Department of Community Affairs assistant commissioner. “Essentially, it would assist removing some of this housing inventory from the market by its purchase by local governments.”

Mary Ledbetter, executive director of Home Development Resources in Hall County, said the grant will be used to purchase foreclosed homes near the Jackson County line off of U.S. 129.

“We have to use it in the most distressed parts of the county,” Ledbetter said. “We would have liked it to go county wide, but narrowed it down to the areas that have the most foreclosure.”

Individual homes have not yet been selected.

The funding can be reused in other areas after the first round of homes have been resold.

“Once these houses are sold, those funds go back into the pot of funds to be used again. We do this process over and over for the next four years,” Ledbetter said. “Once the funds come back in, they are returned to the state.”

Statewide data was analyzed to determine how much money was allocated to each city or county.

“What we did was take a look at the needs data. The state actually purchased the foreclosure data for the entire state for 2008, and what we did was take a look at the residential foreclosure process,” Williamson said. “We looked at the rates of foreclosure in each county; we looked at the numbers of subprime loans; we looked at vacancy rates in res areas; and we also looked at households where more than 50 percent of their median income was being used to support their housing.”

Ledbetter said the money also could be used for down payment assistance for income-qualifying families.

“We are excited. This is going to mean a lot for Hall County’s neighborhoods. They will become more stable, and we will be eliminating the blight houses in the neighborhoods,” Ledbetter said.

But the income requirements to purchase one of the government-rehabilitated homes will be fairly lenient.

“It’s as much as 120 percent of the area median income. It is a higher income limit qualification than what we’re used to seeing,” Ledbetter said “More of the higher-income people are being impacted with the economy.”

Ledbetter said the process could begin as early as April 15.

In January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the Georgia Department of Community Affairs plan to distribute nearly $77.1 million throughout the state for projects that met Neighborhood Stabilization Program guidelines.



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