Leyens renews call for more midpriced homes in city

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 3, 2001

Walter Watson of Quality Development Inc. measures a board in the living room of one of the homes under construction at North Washington and Roberts streets in the Kings community. The 1,012-square-foot home is one of 21 houses for low-income families planned for the area. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[12/03/01]Returning to a topic he’s raised before, Mayor Laurence Leyens said Vicksburg and Warren County are facing a housing shortage and need 670 new, midpriced homes in the next 18 months to keep up.

City officials joined Leyens in meeting with bankers and mortgage lenders and asking them to create a loan pool for low- and moderate-income families. Specifically discussed was creation of a Community Development Corporation to build 100 new homes in 18 months.

“We as a city clearly see that we have a housing shortage,” Leyens said. “We’re just sort of spreading out, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

A shortage in homes from the $59,000 to $64,000 price range is expected as people move into the area to find work with new industries at the Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex.

Yorozu Automotive Mississippi announced last month that the Nissan supplier will employ about 120 people when completed in 2004. CalsonicKansei North America Inc. is expected to employ about 138 people building exhaust systems, radiators and condensers for Nissan starting in 2003.

Leyens is calling on local lenders and contractors to begin work now to have homes available. In a CDC, lenders would create a pool of money to be used to finance first-time homebuyers who might not qualify for traditional home loans through a bank. The lenders would share the risk with those loans, reducing losses to each, Leyens said.

The non-profit organization can also seek grants from federal and state sources through local governments.

Separately, the city has asked local contractors to come up with plans for three-bedroom, two-bath homes in what he called a “Vicksburg style” that will cost between $59,000 and $64,000. The homes would be built only after buyers are identified by the city through the CDC.

Eight designs for homes have already been offered to the city.

“What that means is the contractor won’t have the risk of having to pay interest while the house is on the market,” Leyens said.

The program would work in conjunction with other homebuyer assistance programs through the city bringing the cost to about $424 per month. There are currently three programs already in place:

The Housing Revolving Loan Program provides $12,000 for down payment and closing costs to families with incomes under $40,000. The loan is paid back over a 30-year period at 3 percent interest.

The 1999 Home Program in the Kings community began in January and provides $15,000 for down payment and closing costs to families of four with incomes under $37,850. In that program, the city is also identifying buyers for 21 houses being built in Kings. So far, two homes are nearing completion, but no buyers have been identified. An open house has been tentatively scheduled for Dec. 13.

The Affordable Housing Program provides $5,000 for closing costs to families of four with incomes of less than $28,380.

Beatrice Moore, the city’s director of housing and community development, said the Kings program is one of the best the city has available because the loan does not have to be paid back. The program also makes homebuyers eligible for rural development grants that can lower the cost of a house to $280 per month, but she said the hardest part is getting the word

out to people about the programs.

“People pay a lot for rent every month and don’t have enough left to save up for down payments or closing costs,” Moore said.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said another problem with the Kings and other housing programs is that they limit where people can buy homes. But under the CDC program proposed by Leyens, houses would be built in different parts of the city.

The city is working to identify the number of properties in Vicksburg that have been acquired by the city or the state through tax sales or liens. Leyens said those properties, which are spread out throughout the city, would provide developers a place to build the new homes where water, sewer and streets are already in place.

“We’re not getting in the housing business,” Leyens said. “We’re not going to use tax dollars to build houses.”

The properties, once identified, would be sold to the developers at fair-market value, Leyens said. The only tax dollars that would be spent on the lots would be clearing where older homes have burned or fallen in, he said.

North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, a real estate agent, said that in addition to answering the need for new housing in Vicksburg, the CDC program will help bring pride to the community.

“When a person is renting, they don’t care about throwing paper out on the street or if the paint is peeling.,” Young said.

Phil Eide, director of housing initiative for the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, worked with a CDC in Jackson for six years. He was asked to take a part in helping put together the program here.

“You’ve got all of the ingredients here to put together a strong CDC,” Eide said.

He said that the organization did not have to be limited to the city and could include county government. It will be up to the participants in the program to decide what form a local CDC would take and how it would work.

The program has no relation to operations of the Vicksburg Housing Authority, the largest provider of public housing in Vicksburg, which currently has a waiting list for housing.