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County rolls out mortgage-assistance program

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

County leaders joined the Clayton County Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), on Thursday, in rolling out a new campaign, in which the county will make an investment in teachers, public-safety officials, servicemen, military widows, and medical professionals, who want to purchase homes, and live in the county.

Starting this week, the county will offer up to $20,000 in mortgage assistance to buyers purchasing foreclosed homes that have been acquired, restored, and put back on the market by the Clayton County NSP.

The assistance is part of a $9.7 million federal stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The news of the mortgage-assistance program was trumpeted Thursday afternoon, during a ceremony in the Bridlewood Subdivision in Riverdale, where several NSP homes have been acquired, and resold. Officials from Clayton County Public Schools, Southern Regional Medical Center, Clayton County government, and the U.S. Army were present to ring in the occasion.

While the most assistance will be given to people in certain professions, mortgage assistance will be available to all qualified home buyers willing to live in the homes for five to 10 years, said Clayton County NSP Manager Mickie Williams.

Individuals, and families, making below 50 percent of the area's median income will receive up to $20,000, based on their need; those earning above 51-to-80 percent, will receive up to $5,000 in assistance; and those earning 81-to-120 percent, will receive up to $5,000 in matching down-payment funds, Williams said.

"Twenty-thousand dollars is going to make a major difference in the monthly payment," Williams added. "We don't want to create a second round of foreclosures in Clayton County. We want to encourage people to use the money responsibly to reduce the principal interest on the mortgage.

"Those people [in the selected group] serve us daily in our county," Williams continued. "We want to make sure that we recognize their achievements, and we recognize the sacrifices they are making, and we want to extend them the opportunity to live here."

The assistance isn't free, Williams said, and takers will have to occupy the property for a certain time period in order to have their mortgage assistance forgiven. Those receiving $15,000 and under, must stay in their homes for at least five years, and those receiving $20,000, must stay at least 10 years. Participants will also be required to complete 12 hours of home-buyer education classes.

"We are hoping to achieve three things: stabilizing neighborhoods by returning foreclosed properties to home ownership; affordability of these neighborhoods by providing mortgage assistance; and sustainability of these neighborhoods by requiring long-term owner occupancy," Williams said.

Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, who owns a home in the Bridlewood Subdivision, said the NSP program has already restored five foreclosed properties in her neighborhood. She said the mortgage-assistance program is a positive way to improve the community, while providing affordable living for people in service professions.

"This is a phenomenal program," Wynn-Dixon said. "It shows what can be done when we work together, and egos are put aside. It will bring up the quality of our homes. These people do so much to serve us. This is a way to serve them back."

Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell said the program may have a positive, "mushroom" effect, and lead to the re-stabilization of neighborhoods.

"This is helping us keep jobs in Clayton County as well as giving people a place to live," he said. "We have bailed out Wall Street. Now, let's bail out Main Street. This is the way back for us."

For more information about the program, call (770) 210-5208.