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Nearly $30 million in federal housing money flows to Tampa Bay area

Tampa Bay communities will get a nearly $30 million boost from the federal government through the latest effort to help neighborhoods marred by foreclosure.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the aid Wednesday as part of $1 billion awarded in the third round of its Neighborhood Stabilization Program stimulus efforts.

Hammered by real estate struggles, Florida will receive $208.4 million, the largest allotment of any state.

Hillsborough County led the bay area with nearly $8.1 million.

Like past rounds of the program, money will go toward the purchase, repair and resale of property, as well as down payment help for people with low and moderate incomes.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and other officials will highlight the program at a 10 a.m. news conference today outside a foreclosed Tampa home slated to become apartments for female veterans thanks to the program.

The latest infusion of money was part of the financial regulatory bill that Congress passed this summer. Grants were based on a formula using foreclosure rates, troubled loans and mortgage delinquency in a given area.

Local governments hope to avoid hangups that led Tampa and some other communities to nearly miss the deadline this month to commit money from the program's first round in 2009, which was part of the federal stimulus package.

That year, the region received nearly $70 million to fight foreclosures. Through August, all money is committed, although more than half remains unspent, federal reports show. Statistics on the program's second round are not yet available.

Local officials blamed the delay in using the money on reluctant banks and problems reselling properties, as well as difficulties working with HUD. But they also had their own problems.

"I think a lot of it was, a lot of local governments thought like governments," meaning they moved slowly and weren't creative enough in dealing with banks to get properties they wanted, said George Romagnoli, community development director for Pasco County and chairman of the Florida Housing Coalition. "When you redevelop housing, you have to think a little more entrepreneurially."

Local governments await new federal rules for using the money, which HUD anticipates releasing within a few weeks. Without the rules, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County officials would not say Wednesday how they want to use the money.

Hillsborough County will continue to target troubled neighborhoods previously designated for the program, foreclosure manager Lanette Glass said. But the money may help the county infuse cash into two struggling complexes in Plant City and the Town 'N Country area.

With $5.2 million for Pasco, Romagnoli said he would like to target rental housing creeping into neighborhoods of single-family homes because of foreclosures.

While it's a big amount, the money has to be used smartly because of the size of the foreclosure problem.

"It gets used up fast," Romagnoli said.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Neighborhood stimulus

Tampa Bay cities and counties will receive $29.7 million in the latest round of federal funding to fight foreclosure. Here's a breakdown:

Hillsborough

County: $8.1 million

Pasco County:$5.2 million

Pinellas County: $4.7 million

Tampa: $4.7 million

St. Petersburg: $3.7 million

Hernando County: $1.9 million

Clearwater: $1.4 million

Source: U.S. Housing and Urban Development

Nearly $30 million in federal housing money flows to Tampa Bay area 09/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 7:20am]
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