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Seek out poorest of the poor, Thompson urges housing group

Rep. Bennie Thompson addresses members of the Mississippi Home Corporation at the ninth annual Affordable Housing Conference Tuesday. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[01/10/01] District 2 U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson called on the Mississippi Home Corporation to reassess the way it spreads funds for low-income housing around the state.

Thompson, who represents Warren and 21 other counties including the Delta in the U.S. House, spoke before about 200 real estate agents, home builders, mortgage lenders and MHC staff members Tuesday at a luncheon for the ninth annual Affordable Housing Conference at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

“We have more substandard and more dilapidated homes (in District 2) than in any other district,” Thompson said. “My challenge to the Mississippi Home Corporation is to start looking at the poorest of the poor.”

MHC, a quasi-public corporation, targets first-time buyers and has programs for people in low- to moderate-income households. One of its programs provides tax credits to developers to build low-income homes.

Last year, out of the 70 applications to the MHC for $6 million in tax credits, 21 were approved. In the 2nd Congressional District, only one was approved.

“The most needy of the five districts got the least benefit,” said Thompson, a member of Congress for eight years. “I represent a district that needs more affordable housing.”

The Democrat from Bolton appealed to the MHC to work with more minorities and to allocate future tax credits across the board and not to “a few across the state.”

The majority of the tax credits approved were in the 1st congressional district, in north Mississippi, and District 5, along the Gulf Coast. In each of the districts, eight applicants were approved. That represented 38 percent of those who had applied in those districts, while less than 5 percent of applicants in District 2 were approved.

In District 3, one out of 10 applications was approved and in District 4, three out of nine were approved.

“Most of the programs are not designed to serve the poorest of the poor,” Thompson said.

Although most of Thompson’s remarks centered on how the MHC could better serve his constituents, he complimented the staff’s hard work and pledged his continued backing from Congress.

“When I get back to Washington I will continue to support all of the housing programs that come up,” he said.

Dianne Bolen, executive director of MHC, said the agency is prepared to accept Thompson’s challenge to provide better housing throughout the state.

“There has not been a time when we’ve called on Rep. Thompson that he has not come through for us,” Bolen said.

The three-day MHC program featuring various workshops on the housing industry will conclude today. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove was the key speaker Monday.