Housing help limited to existing homes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Changes to a home purchase program for low-income wage earners mean applicants will have to find existing homes for sale instead of having new homes built in Warren County.

Monday, Warren County supervisors signed onto the 2008 Home Investment Partnerships Program, or HOME program. Counties act as conduits for money awarded to assist qualifying buyers in making down payments for conventional mortgages.

In Warren County, $31,250 is expected to be split among eight families or individuals who make up to 80 percent of the $41,750 median income.

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Bobby Rayburn of Jackson-based Rayburn & Associates, hired to act in consulting and administrative roles locally, has told supervisors changes initiated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would require “full-blown environmental clearances” be completed in the event new homes are built. Public hearings and advertisements showing no significant environmental impact would have to be conducted, an option supervisors panned as too cumbersome. As a result, the new construction option was dropped.

As has been the case in the county’s participation in previous HOME program allocations, a risk for those who qualify would be inspection of the structures. No residential building standards or land-use plan exists outside Vicksburg municipal limits. Homes recently foreclosed by various mortgage lenders and HUD itself could figure into the selection, Rayburn said.

Vicksburg-based We Care Community Center is to act as developer and selection committee and provide required courses to applicants, who must attend homebuyer education classes and be deemed credit-worthy to qualify for initial mortgages up to $106,250.

Terms also stipulate homebuyers must stay in the home 10 years to avoid paying back any portion of the grants.

Applicants are not limited in how much their income may go up after winning grant money for a house, but if the house is sold before 10 years has passed, they must sell the house to someone who falls within low-income brackets.

Those awarded grants from a similar program by the City of Vicksburg cannot receive additional grants from the HOME program, officials have said.

In February, the Mississippi Development Authority announced 24 cities and counties were awarded a total of $7.2 million to start the program. Purvis, Sumrall and Laurel received the top individual allocations, each of which was $500,000. Four community housing development organizations, or CHDOs, received more than $2 million of the total HOME program awards for 2008.


On the agenda

Meeting Monday, Warren County supervisors:

• Approved 10 percent cuts in allocations to 11 nonprofit groups, as the board follows through on trimming spending.

Quarterly payments to the Vicksburg Area Red Cross, Community Council of Warren County, Mississippi National Guard, Warren County Children’s Shelter, Warren Yazoo Mental Health and support money for the Warren County Health Department will total $486,200, down from more than $665,000 supervisors budgeted.

Also cut were funding to NRoute, Haven House, the Child Abuse Prevention Center, Alcorn Extension Service. Each was trimmed by 10 percent. Also trimmed was the county’s contribution to the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce for the annual 4th of July celebration. Those organizations will receive $85,950 from the county this year, down from the $95,500 in the budget.

A dozen additional nonprofits were notified in February of cuts in donations made through local and private legislation by state lawmakers, the only way counties can allocate taxpayer dollars to charity.

• Awarded a $299,995.17 bid to APAC Mississippi for resurfacing on Eagle Lake Shore Road. The project is to be funded in part by the Mississippi Department of Transportation Office of State Aid Road Construction. The bid came in under engineering estimates, pegged at $309,433.

• Approved invoices totaling $63,191.28 to County Engineer John McKee for engineering services and $7,061.50 to Board Attorney Randy Sherard for legal services.

• Authorized payment of $3,944.50 to the Yokena-Jeff Davis Water District for transfer of a water line at LeTourneau Road. Repairs to a section of the westbound lanes damaged by last spring’s Mississippi River flooding are dependent on moving it.

• Following closed session, approved a firing in the Warren County Road Department.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com