TAMPA — Florida has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, but help is on the way.
Mayor Pam Iorio and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, on Thursday held a news conference to launch a $13.6-million program targeting foreclosed homes largely in Sulphur Springs. West Tampa and neighborhoods around the University of South Florida will also benefit.
"We have entire blocks in Sulphur Springs that are one vacant, foreclosed home after another," Iorio said.
The money comes from the $3.9-billion Neighborhood Stabilization Act passed by Congress earlier this year.
Hillsborough County will receive $19.1-million, with most of that money going to Orient Park, Palm River, Clair Mel and Progress Village, along with the USF area.
In Tampa, plans call for buying, renovating and selling 80 foreclosed homes to low-income home buyers. The city will also buy 30 foreclosed homes and make them available for rent to clients of social services agencies such as the Spring and the Salvation Army.
In some cases, dilapidated homes will be torn down and replaced with new houses or recreation areas.
"This is a good day," Joseph Robinson, president of the Sulphur Springs Action League. "We can turn this community around."
Joanne Lighter, executive director of the Spring, which serves women and children who are victims of domestic violence, says she believes the program will grow into a movement of public and private entities interested in addressing the foreclosure crisis.
Iorio said she is also looking for money in the city budget to expand the program.
Castor, who has hosted several foreclosure workshops for troubled homeowners in Tampa, praised Iorio for developing partnerships and considering expanding the program.
"This is exactly what Congress intended when we passed the Neighborhood Stabilization Act," she said.
The City Council is expected to approve spending the federal money on Nov. 20.
Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3401.