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Housing Authority to respond to foreclosure crisis

By Daniel Silliman

The Housing Authority of Clayton County is looking at ways to respond to the housing crisis.

Carlo Musso, chairman of the authority board, said a response to the housing crisis will be a shift for the board, but the county leads the area in foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies, and something must be done.

"It's a major priority with a fairly high degree of urgency," Musso said. "The Housing Authority of Clayton County has resources set aside that we have been saving. If we're saving for a rainy day, well, it's pouring outside."

The board formed a committee last month to look at ways to address foreclosures and delinquencies. The committee is expected to make recommendations to the board at the Wednesday, June 25 meeting, which will be held at 732 Main Street, in Forest Park, at 6 p.m.

Musso said while families with delinquent mortgages, or foreclosures, are not all victims, home ownership is the "backbone of the community," and there are many struggling families who, with help, would make the county a stronger, healthier place.

"Keeping our employed, taxpaying citizens in their homes is in the best interest of everyone," Musso said. "Our goal is, by mid-summer, to have a plan in place where families in our community, who can't meet their payments, or are facing foreclosure, will have other options."

Chris Wood, HACC spokesman and an consultant for the Foreclosure Prevention Committee, said the board is unanimous in wanting to get involved.

"Whether Clayton County is in the worst shape of the metro counties or not, we're sure the situation is bad enough to warrant intervention," Wood said. "Now, what do we do? There're changes in the market conditions, and changes in the citizen's needs. What can we do? The board members are willing to come together on something -- I've heard each of them say they want to do something -- but this is a little bit of new ground for the Housing Authority."

Previously, the authority, which was started in 1982, has worked with multi-family housing. It started out providing tax-exempt financing to affordable housing developments, but in the last 13 years has expanded its operations to include programs addressing a variety of multi-family housing issues.

Focusing on issues with single-family housing will be a new development, for the authority.

Ideas being considered by the committee include offering second mortgages to struggling, hardworking families, and rehabilitating foreclosed houses and reselling them to selected residents at low rates.

"There are a number of ideas kicking around, but they're just in the infancy stage," Wood said.

Musso said the Housing Authority will do something to try and meet the needs created by the housing crisis, but it is waiting to see what the best and most effective option is. The board may have to decide, Musso said, what will have the most impact on the county.

Whatever the Housing Authority decides to do will be funded through the investments and re-investments previously made. Wood said the authority has been very successful with rehabilitation of Premier Gardens Apartments, on Garden Walk Boulevard in College Park, and could use the revenue from the apartments or could borrow against the equity, to fund a foreclosure prevention program.

The board is scheduled to look at some of the committee's ideas on Wednesday night, and move toward putting a plan in place.