Home Development Resources Inc., may be one of Hall County’s best kept secrets.
Established by Hall County and the city of Gainesville in 1996, HDRI is a nonprofit organization that provides homebuyer and debt management education to the community.
The group recently received publicity after the Hall County Board of Commissioners questioned whether its administration of the $2.3 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant was a possible conflict of interest.
This was the first time a housing grant had ever required a competitive bidding process; in the past, HDRI administered all of the housing grants the county was awarded.
Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell said the group was created more than a decade ago to help the county apply for housing grants.
“(The grants) were so complicated we didn’t want to dedicate county staff to just writing grants so we created a non-profit to do that,” Bell said. “That’s why they’ve gotten all our business over the years, we kind of created them for that purpose to run our housing and manage our grants.”
In 2010, HDRI is slated to receive $40,000 from Hall County. The organization also works with the cities of Oakwood and Flowery Branch but receives no financial support from them.
Administering housing grants is only part of what the agency does, however.
Executive Director Mary Ledbetter said the group provides many services that could be crucial for people to know about in this uncertain economy.
“We are a Housing and Urban Development-certified housing counseling agency and we do prepurchase counseling, post purchase, credit counseling, foreclosure prevention counseling along with reverse mortgage counseling.” Ledbetter said. “There’s a lot of people who may not realize they can get help with their mortgage company.”
Ledbetter said HDRI can help people save their homes when they are facing foreclosure.
“We act as a mediator between them and the mortgage company to work out maybe a loan modification or a repayment plan so they can catch up on their payments or even lower the payments,” Ledbetter said.
Ledbetter said the needs of the community are reflected in the services the group provides.
“We did more down-payment assistance when the housing market was at an all-time (high),” Ledbetter said. “The largest program we have right now is the foreclosue prevention counseling because of the economic conditions.”
The group also administers Community HOME Investment Program, or CHIP, money from the Department of Community Affairs.
“We provide, of course, down-payment assistance with Hall County’s CHIP funds. Those down-payment assistance funds go to first-time homebuyers who are income eligible and purchasing in Hall County.”
Home Development Resources, Inc. is also behind the home renovation projects on Black and Cooley drives.
“We do owner-occupied housing rehabilitation for residents on Black and Cooley drives,” Ledbetter said. “They have to own their own home. We help to bring it up to meet the current county codes.”
Recent federal grants such as the Neighborhood Stabilization may require the county to alter its relationship with Home Development Resources Inc.
“That (relationship) has worked without a hitch up until now,” Bell said. “Prior to this grant, we were allowed to have what’s called a sole source — one person who would write and administrate it. It never had to be put out to bid ... that doesn’t work well in a competitive bid process.”