MOUNT VERNON — Local officials are learning more about how money received from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program can be used to fix up areas affected by foreclosures.
Region 9, comprised of the city of Mount Vernon, Knox and Richland counties, excluding the city of Mansfield, will receive a little over $1.1 million under the program, which is provided through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program. The city of Mount Vernon is serving as the lead agency in administering the grant. The money is divided into three categories: administration, land bank and demolition, and development and stabilization.
According to Terry Scott, city auditor, the money can be used to provide a down payment for a homeowner; to buy a home, rehab it, then resell it; or to buy a property, demolish the home, and use the property as green space. Only vacant property that has completed the foreclosure process can be considered. A property can be purchased for no more than 85 percent of its appraised value.
“They want to try and get people back in homes in foreclosed areas,” explained Scott. “It’s for low- to moderate-income [individuals].”
Scott said that for this particular program, the government has expanded the definition of low- to moderate-income.
“People who wouldn’t think they would be considered as low income may qualify,” he said, adding that estimated calculations could put the income threshold at $70,000.
Under the $465,000 allocated to land bank and demolition, 31 blighted properties in Region 9 will be purchased and demolished. Three properties will go to Habitat for Humanity for redevelopment. The other 28 properties can either be retained as green space, or be sold.
Under the $573,974 allocated for stabilization/development, an additional 10 properties will be involved. The money can be used to assist a potential homeowner with a down payment, to help a homeowner rehabilitate a property, or to acquire, rehabilitate, then sell a property.
The first step in the process is for the three entities to identify target areas for redevelopment. For the city of Mount Vernon, Scott said, the area is bounded on the north by James Street. It runs down North Sandusky Street, Tilden Avenue, over to Greenwood Road, out Harcourt Road to Columbus Road, then to Parrott Street to South Main Street. From there it goes north, bisecting Public Square, up North Main Street to Five Points, then west of Mansfield Avenue.
Knox County Commissioner Allen Stockberger said the county has identified South Vernon and the village of Danville as its target areas. In South Vernon, it would be the Buckeye Addition.
“In Knox County we are fortunate we don’t have too many [low- to moderate-income communities], but we do have a few that meet the criteria for utilizing these funds,” he said. “In Danville, we’ve specifically been working with The Sanctuary in an attempt to get some property acquired, and possibly a new building. Although we can’t purchase a new building with NSP funds, the two adjacent properties are deemed to be of interest to have in the long run, so they could perhaps have them as income.”
Stockberger said one property is still in the foreclosure process. A buyer purchased the other, and is willing to hold the property to see what develops.
“South Vernon would be a cooperative project with the city,” he said, adding that although the commissioners have identified these two areas, they are open to other ideas as well.
Richland County identified Madison Township and the city of Shelby as its target areas.
Scott said the three government entities have until September to identify specific properties within their targeted areas. Once each entity has identified their properties, representatives will come together and decide how to allocate the money.
“Nobody’s out to get more than the other,” said Scott. “We’re working together in a consensus.”
“We have had a pretty cooperative spirit on this,” he said.
Scott said the city will receive the money after July 1.
“By March 2010 we will start to use some of the money, or it could potentially be subject to losing it and reallocation,” he said. “The grant program lasts four years, so we potentially have until 2013 to get everything done.”
In order for the public to track how the money is spent, Scott said that within five days of receiving the money he has to post an acknowledgment of receipt on the state auditor’s Web site. Every quarter he has to post expenditures.
“That’s Ohio’s mechanism it has put in place to track what we are doing with the NSP money,” he said.
Region 9 has partnered with Amy Schocken of CDC of Ohio for overall administrative work on the grant, and with Knox Metropolitan Housing Authority. Metro housing will conduct the required house and lead-based paint inspections, and will serve as case processor for the down payment and repayment on the rehabbed homes. Anyone wanting more information on the program is encouraged to call KMHA at 397-8787.