BROOKSVILLE — Over the last two years, more than $5 million in federal grants has allowed Hernando County to turn about 80 foreclosed houses into homes for moderate- to low-income families.
The grants generated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of much-needed work for title companies, real estate agents, contractors and home inspection services at a time when the stalled housing market has idled many in those fields.
The program also improved neighborhoods stricken by overgrown, abandoned properties threatening to further deepen the dramatic fall of home values.
Now, the county is about to begin another phase of the work with an additional $1,953,975 in money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for what is known as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
The County Commission on Tuesday will consider moving ahead with a developer for the project, Citrus County-based Florida Low Income Housing Associates, the same group that did the rental portion of the first phase of the NSP.
The group is the only community-based organization that submitted a proposal out of the 74 that were notified.
The next phase will concentrate on a much smaller area of Spring Hill sandwiched between Elgin and Northcliffe boulevards and west of Mariner Boulevard. The area was picked for the high number of foreclosures and sub prime mortgages there and the likelihood of additional foreclosures.
Just as in the first round, the funds will be used to purchase and restore homes. Most will then be purchased by eligible low- to moderate-income buyers. The rest will be managed by FLIHA as rental properties for low-income residents.
The county's grant application requires Hernando to complete at least 17 homes for purchase and at least five for rentals during this phase.
Unlike the first round, however, FLIHA also will serve as developer for the home-buying portion of the program by buying and fixing up homes. Then once there is an inventory of available properties, qualified buyers will make their selections.
In the first round, approved applicants picked a house from the many foreclosures available in the neighborhoods chosen as having the most need for help. After the selection, a team of professionals arranged for rehabilitation of the property and finalizing the purchase.
Qualified applicants still on the waiting list from the first phase of the program will get the first crack at the new homes. If additional applicants are needed, the county likely won't start taking applications for several months when FLIHA already has completed some houses, according to Jean Rags, county community development director.
The hope for this phase is that by concentrating all of the home purchases in a much smaller area, the program will have a much deeper impact and can turn a neighborhood around, Rags said.
The county also has applied for additional dollars through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, which is providing millions of dollars through the 2011 Community Investment Services Affordable Housing Program. The funding is provided to help communities that are receiving Neighborhood Stabilization Program dollars to expand the number of homes purchased.
Those dollars are specifically to be used for rehabilitation expenses, loan buy-down or down payment assistance.
Rags said she hoped that with that help, the county can see as many as 35 more foreclosed houses bought, inhabited and cared for by new owners by the end of the grant.
The side benefit is that many more professionals in related fields will again get work through the months it will take to complete the program.
"Not only is this stabilizing neighborhoods,'' Rags said, "but it's helping businesses.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.