Block party celebrates neighborhood stabilization

In 2009, Clayton County was awarded $9.7 million in federal stimulus money, for the purpose of revitalizing neighborhoods adversely impacted by the foreclosure crisis.

On Saturday, the Clayton County Housing and Community Development Office's Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) will celebrate its first use of the funds, with a "Housing Block Party" at the Tara Oaks subdivision.

The county — along with the City of Riverdale, Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, and Lowe's Home Improvement — will host the event, which is scheduled from noon, to 3 p.m., at the Tara Oaks subdivision, located at the corner of Church and Roberts streets, in Riverdale.

According to Clayton County NSP Manager Mickie Williams, Saturday's event will serve as a celebration of $1.5 million worth of improvements currently underway in the subdivision, as well as an open house for potential homeowners.

"It's [Tara Oaks subdivision is] a 55-and-older [years of age] complex, and it's probably the most affordable complex that has been in Clayton County for a long time," Williams said. "Some people had already purchased homes out there, but unfortunately, the builder was unable to build out and went under. We are going to address the foreclosures there, renovate those homes, and resell them. We're going to stabilize a neighborhood that was a good neighborhood to begin with, but just got caught in a downward economy."

Williams said the block party will be a "fun event," featuring music, games, comments from local elected officials, refreshments provided by Lowe's, and free, grilled hot-dogs for the first 50 people to arrive. In addition, Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity officials and housing counselors will be on hand to assist those interested in purchasing homes.

"This is our very first neighborhood, and we are very excited about it," Williams said. "We want to show off the subdivision and give people an opportunity to see it first."

Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Brenda Rayburn said the Tara Oaks subdivision was identified as the first NSP project in the county, because of the opportunity to provide affordable housing for area seniors. She said 17 of the 35 homes in the subdivision are currently vacant, and that $1.5 million of NSP money will be used to prepare the vacant homes for responsible homeowners.

"The problem with vacancy is that it invites vandalism and vagrants," Rayburn said. "It's a real safety concern to people. Being able to put other families in these homes will be a huge benefit to the people who have been there a while. They will benefit by having people there, who are concerned about the community, are interested in giving back to the community, and interested in maintaining the community."

Williams said the county has six months to allocate the entire $9.7 million in federal stimulus funds toward housing-renovation projects in the county. She said the county will host other housing block parties as more neighborhoods are selected for renovation.

For more information, call (770) 210-5208, or (770) 477-4512.