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NSP program surpasses $9.7 million spending goal

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In April of 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) granted the Clayton County Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) $9.7 million, in federal stimulus funds, to purchase, rehabilitate, and resell foreclosed homes within an 18-month time span.

Due to a lack of immediate organization, the county did not purchase its first homes until this March, leaving the county at risk of forfeiting any unused funds back to the federal government.

On Tuesday, the Clayton County NSP reported that it has exceeded its Sept. 4 goal to buy, repair, and resell 65 homes, by 49 homes, and exceeded its goal to spend $9.7 million by $1.1 million. The feat, county officials said, will make Clayton County eligible for a portion of $1 billion in additional neighborhood stabilization funds, which HUD will dispense later this year, to local governments deemed in need of foreclosure assistance.

Clayton County NSP Manager Mickie Williams made the announcement Tuesday night, during the Clayton Board of Commissioners (BOC) regular business meeting. She said the county can finally breathe "a collective sigh of relief."

"We actually have 114 houses under contract," Williams said. "We obligated $10.8 million, which was a combination of the $9.7 million [from HUD] and $1.1 million in program funds. We met out goal almost three weeks in advance of the deadline date that was set by HUD ... We did it all in seven months."

During last night's meeting, representatives from Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, National Property Institute, LLC, Renewal Works, LLC, and Strategic Holdings, LLC -- the four companies assigned by the county to identify foreclosed homes, identify and train suitable homebuyers, and conduct home repairs -- received proclamations from the county. Williams described their accomplishment as "the epitome of what private-public partnerships are about."

"We had four asset management teams that actually identified homes," Williams continued. "Because of the contracts that had to be let by the county ... they didn't get started until Jan. 22, 2010, so we weren't able to purchase our first homes until March." However, now "we are in line for any recaptured funds from grantees who were unable to use their money."

Williams said that the work of buying and renovating foreclosed homes over the past seven months has employed 1,300 people. She estimated that the $10.8 million investment will eventually generate $68 million in additional revenue for the county.

Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity Director Brenda Rayburn said the NSP's home-buying push was a victory for "affordable housing" and "successful home ownership" within the county. She said the success of the program may spur additional investment in the county.

"Habitat is about successful home ownership, not just getting somebody in a house," Rayburn said. "What was great was that Mickie and the NSP program kind of took on that same philosophy. We need people who are invested in the community, people who will vote, people who will got to PTA meetings.

"We've brought homeowners into the county that are going to be here in the long run," said Rayburn. "I hope that it brings more investment."

Williams said that while the NSP program has helped improve property values in specific neighborhoods, the county still faces an average of 900 foreclosures per month. She said the Clayton County NSP will continue to seek further assistance from the federal government.

"While we are proud of the accomplishments of the NSP program, it is clear that we have a lot of work to do in terms of stemming foreclosures," Williams said. "We feel like we are standing here with a mop and the faucets are wide open. We're looking at different ways to address the foreclosure problem next year."

BOC Chairman Bell said that he is "pleased as punch" with the results of the NSP program, and will be meeting today with the regional director of HUD to seek additional funds for foreclosure assistance.

"I'll be meeting with the HUD regional director tomorrow morning, to further discuss getting additional money for Clayton County, because our staff has done such a magnificent job," Bell said Tuesday. "The need is here. We can use it and we deserve it."