Fire at former Buford Tannery
With affordable housing in mind, Hall County is looking to switch gears in a home rehabilitation program, focusing less on foreclosures and more on rundown properties that no one is buying.
“This will allow us to go in and purchase abandoned and dilapidated properties — or vacant land that is overgrown — and clean up, tear down and do redevelopment with new construction,” said Jessica Robinson, Hall County grants manager.
Robinson asked the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Monday to add the new focus to its federal-grant-funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
“Will this help with the shortage we have with affordable housing?” Commissioner Jeff Stowe asked.
“Yes,” Robinson said, adding that affordable rentals also may be part of the program.
Since 2009, 62 foreclosed homes in Hall County have been purchased, renovated and sold to low-income families under the program.
A lease-purchase is being worked out on another home, and a remaining 12 homes the county has bought “are in the process of being rehabbed” for future sales, Robinson said.
“We have not had a problem in selling any of the properties we have purchased,” she said.
Robinson added: “We do not make a profit off them. We can only sell the properties for the investment we have in them or the appraised value, whichever is less.”
Foreclosures were a particular fallout of the Great Recession, but the focus has changed with the economy improving.
With some $900,000 in funding left for the program, officials would target homes in all types of blighted conditions.
“A house has burned … and is just sitting there,” Robinson said, giving an example. “We can purchase that, tear it down and put something back.”
Some area residents, speaking to the commission, blasted the program.
“I’m astounded we’re even doing this,” said frequent critic Doug Aiken. “This is something out of (Democratic presidential candidate) Bernie Sanders’ handbook. This is a socialist program that pits the government against the private sector.”
“This is serious,” John Rogers said. “Get government out of free enterprise.”
And Mike Scupin told the commission, “The problem isn’t just (in Washington, D.C.). I’ve heard people sitting on this (commission) talk about how the (federal) government spends too much money.
“You’re helping them right now with this (Housing and Urban Development) program.”
Robinson, speaking after the meeting, said, “We’re not going out competing with anyone. If there’s someone bidding on a house, we’re not going to try to take it out from under a first-time homeowner.
“We’re going out and buying property that no one else can buy — or wants to buy.”