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Gainesville wants to help residents own homes
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Gainesville officials explained to residents Saturday at an advisory meeting how low-income individuals can go about getting government assistance for a cornerstone achievement — owning a home.

Housing Coordinator Theresa Dyer showed an infectious enthusiasm for community development during the event at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center.

“You say you need something; you’re not just a phone call,” she said. “I will show up at your front door. I will show up at your property.”

The Citizens Information & Advisory Roundtable, also known as the One Community organization, meets every other Saturday to discuss neighborhood news and issues for Gainesville Wards 3 and 4, in the south part of the city, which is also the jurisdiction of Hall County District 4.

Gainesville City Councilman Myrtle Figueras said Dyer’s passion for affordable housing extends to the finer details of projects.

“She’s so cute. She’s like an interior decorator. ‘Oh, this is so pretty! We need this color!‘” Figueras said.

“We need this so it will enhance that, and this will pop and that will roll,” chimed in Dyer, in apparent agreement.

When it comes to design, a keen eye is important for both the home’s interior and exterior, she said.

“One of my goals when the city acquires a home that is original to the area is to go in, and yes, rehab it, make it sustainable, but to keep the original integrity of the house as it was built, as it sits,” Dyer said. “It gives to the community and continues to contribute that historical value.”

Officials hope to help residents in need acquire houses through measures including zero-interest grants, but don’t yet know how much funding they will receive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD funding levels will determine this year’s reach of city housing initiatives.

Each project represents — at least initially — an investment for the city, which is OK, Community Development head Chris Davis said.

“As a community development block grant, we don’t have to recover all of the funds,” he said. “We have to have the home appraised, and we have to sell it for the appraised value, but most likely we will have poured more money in that project that we will not recover.”

Home ownership builds worth on both a municipal and individual level, Davis said.

“Home ownership builds self-esteem, and hopefully we can encourage much more of it in neighborhoods,” said Davis. “It’s a benefit to the city; it’s a benefit to the neighborhood — you’ve increased the value of that neighborhood itself.”

Dyer, Davis and Figueras also stressed neighborhood beautification as a goal for the city. 

The first Saturday in April, residents will meet for the traditional hour of back-and-forth with public officials, then return to the community for cleanup and polishing of the south Gainesville neighborhoods.