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Hernando County will pursue $2 million federal housing grant

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County is getting another shot at federal funds to help buy and renovate foreclosed homes.

A divided County Commission voted this week to move forward with the third phase of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program seeking $1,953,975 to help improve a Spring Hill neighborhood hit hard by foreclosures.

In the previous phases of the program, the county has been able to provide 84 families with foreclosed homes that were fixed up with help from a $5.6 million federal grant.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes asked at Tuesday's board meeting what would happen if the commission turned down the grant application.

"We would not receive the funding,'' said Jean Rags, community services director.

The program was designed to improve neighborhoods with numerous foreclosed and abandoned homes, help families that might not have been able to buy a home or find an affordable rental, and put to work people in the home renovation, real estate, title insurance and lending industries.

Rags said plenty of local businesses got work from the earlier phases of the grant.

"If we don't use this money, someone else will,'' Commissioner Jeff Stabins said.

Commissioner John Druzbick also spoke in favor of the program. He said it kept some businesses operating, and he commended Rags for getting the program organized and completed before other counties could. Not approving the grant application would mean "we'll see more jobs lost, more people out of homes,'' he said.

Dukes said that, at some point, local government must put its foot down and stop accepting federal dollars. For those who would snap up what Hernando County would let go, he said, "Shame on them.''

County officials hope to help about 17 more families. Those on a waiting list from the first phase, the home purchase phase, will be the first to be considered once the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approves the county application, which could come by late April, Rags said. The county received more than 300 applications and currently is not accepting new applications.

Most of the dollars in the new grant will be allocated to home purchases, but some of the dollars are to be used by a housing provider who fixes up other homes and then provides them as rentals for low-income individuals and families.

About $1.2 million will be allocated to home purchases and the rest to rental properties. Those who purchase homes cannot earn more than 120 percent of the area median income, which would mean about $57,000 for a family of two. For the rental properties, renters cannot earn more than 50 percent of the area median income, which would amount to about $23,800 for a family of two.

The target area for this round of money is far more compact than last time, and it is based on the highest level of foreclosures, subprime mortgages and potential for additional foreclosures. The area chosen this time is bordered by Northcliffe Boulevard, Mariner Boulevard, Elgin Boulevard, Sheffield Road and Keysville Avenue.

Also in this phase, instead of the buyers picking out their foreclosed home from all that were out on the market, the county will seek bids to choose a developer who will pick homes in the target area, fix them up and then let buyers pick from among the homes available.

Dukes and Commissioner Jim Adkins voted against the grant.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County will pursue $2 million federal housing grant 02/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2011 8:15pm]

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