Supervisors to hear comments on homebuyers’ program|[03/22/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 22, 2008

Warren County supervisors have set a public hearing for April 7 to gather public comment on the county’s participation in a federal program for first-time homebuyers.

Comments will be heard beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the conclusion of the board’s regular agenda.

The Home Investment Partnerships Program, or HOME program, helps homebuyers buy providing deferred loans of about $20,000 and forgiven over a 10-year period. Conditions include attending homebuyer education classes.

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This program would entail construction of about 10 new homes, all moderately sized. Under the arrangement, the county would advertise for bids for housing inspections and legal services. Vicksburg-based We Care Community Center and Jackson-based Housing & Finance Services LLC will have consulting and administrative roles.

Each application is for $250,000 in down payment assistance. About $15 million will be available from the state to most eligible cities and towns. Funds are administered on the state level by the Mississippi Development Authority.

A separate program will be facilitated locally by Vicksburg housing and community development officials, the 2008 Affordable Housing Program, geared to help 20 first-time homebuyers receive about $10,000 for down payment and closing cost assistance. Classes for first-time homebuyers will be hosted by city program directors April 5.

Some supervisors lobbied the board Thursday for a later meeting time in an effort to drive up attendance of those most likely to benefit from the program.

District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon motioned to move the start time to 6 p.m., which was supported by District 2 Supervisor William Banks but voted down 3-2.

“That’s our job. To make it convenient,” Selmon said.

District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale said citizens also have the option of submitting written comments to the Chancery Clerk’s Office and calling their respective supervisors if they cannot attend the hearing.

“This is not a controversial issue. We’ll have everybody in support of anything you do to help somebody buy a home. People can write and call,” Lauderdale said.

An evening meeting was conducted in 2006 to hear comments on the county’s first foray into housing programs, the first of two which entailed getting people into existing homes. A second application was completed in 2007, but no one qualified in either attempt.

HOME program participation on the county level followed discussion on hiring grant-writing services to search for an array of federal funds. Proposals were taken in the previous administration but have not been acted upon.