For almost four years, low-income and elderly homeowners in Tampa who wanted to spruce up their houses have been able to turn to the Mayor's Challenge Fund for help. On Tuesday, Mayor Sandy Freedman said she doesn't want to see that end.
Surrounded by local banking leaders in City Hall's Mascotte Room, Freedman announced the creation of Challenge Fund II. The sequel will be similar to the original Challenge Fund _ only larger in scope, she said.
"We have been able to use this money successfully to produce and enhance housing," Freedman said.
Started in early 1987, the Challenge Fund provides low-interest loans to people trying to renovate or purchase homes. Borrowers receive loans at 2 percent below the market interest rates and are given 20 years to repay them, resulting in more affordable monthly payments.
By the end of 1990, about $13.5-million in loans by 12 Tampa banks will have been approved through the fund, Freedman said. More than 2,500 housing units have been repaired, she said.
The fund's success surprised the mayor, as did the banks' response to her call for help.
"I thought we might be able to get $5-million with a little arm-twisting," Freedman said.
Freedman said she hopes to secure commitments from local banks for at least $20-million for Challenge Fund II. The mayor also said she will try to get more banks involved.
"I don't think we'll need any arm-twisting now," the mayor said.
Negotiations for Challenge Fund II have not begun, but several bankers attending thenews conference Tuesday said their banks would continue their involvement with the fund.
"We're delighted to be a part of this," said Robert Petty, president of SunBank of Tampa Bay. "The program is so well-run, there's no doubt we're going to commit. We just have to work out the details."