USDA extends program to aid home ownership

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 12, 2004

[3/12/04]Vicksburg residents may be able to qualify for a home ownership program with the USDA through an exception awarded to the city.

Vicksburg is one of three Mississippi cities granted a waiver under the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development’s single-family housing program. Under the waiver announced Thursday, residents may qualify for loan guarantees or direct home loans through the USDA program.

“A lot of time people say, that’s a great idea, but it would take an act of Congress,’ and that’s exactly what we did,” said Nick Walters, state director for USDA Rural Development.

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The waiver granted by Congress is actually an extension of the waiver granted after the U.S. Census in 2000. The program is designed for rural areas with a population under 25,000.

Vicksburg’s population is 26,000, according to the latest census estimates.

The new waiver is good through the next census in 2010.

“Having your own home is an empowerment itself and it helps our economy,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens.

Jimmy Heidel, executive director of the Warren County Economic Development Foundation and of the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, said home ownership is also important to industries looking to move to an area.

Bea Moore with the city’s planning department said the city will host public meetings at the City Auditorium to explain more about the program and give people information about applying. She said the exact dates have not been set yet.

Last year, about 125 people attended the meeting for the Rural Development program, Moore said. From that meeting, 10 applications were approved for homebuyers or for construction of new houses.

“We know that the need is here, and the need is great,” Moore said.

Under the program, a family of four with an income of $65,000 or less can qualify for the home loan guarantee. Applicants must also meet the credit requirements.