City will use grant to remove dilapidated homes

Published 6:53 pm Monday, October 16, 2017

The city of Vicksburg will receive a $500,000 Mississippi Home Corp. grant to fund a program to remove dilapidated homes and replace them with new homes on the property.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday approved applying for the grant to fund the blight elimination program, which will allow the city to tear down blighted homes with a clear title and then allow a partner organization like Habitat for Humanity to buy the property from the owner and build a new home on the site. No match is required with the grant.

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The Mississippi Housing Corp. is an organization founded in 1989 to enhance Mississippi’s economy by financing safe, decent, affordable housing for families. The blight elimination program is one its programs.

“The money has already been approved; all we have to do was submit the application,” city housing director Gertrude Young said. “We were one of the target cities (for the grant) in the beginning. They contacted us because we are one of the few cities demolishing our own properties through our city funds.

“We’re kind of the pilot. The money is coming originally from the state Treasury Department. We can make applications for funds up to $4 million.”

Besides Habitat, she said, Construction Ministries of Jackson and Perfect Touch of Meridian will serve as partners with the city. Community development director Victor Gray-Lewis said the money will allow the city to demolish 31 homes, but the city will start the program with 10, because the grant requires the homes involved have a clear title.

“We’re doing our due diligence to try to secure the title or at least get an understanding of securing the title prior to identifying the addresses, then we know we can proceed with demolition,” Gray-Lewis said.

Young said the city is using the city’s present demolition list to select homes for the program.

Under the program, once the building is demolished, the property owner sells the property to the partner organization called a “blight partner,” which buys the land and builds a new home on the property.

“When we talk with them (the property owners), they’re willing to work with us, because if the city tears it down, they’ll still have a lien on the property. If they’re able to work with a blight partner where the blight partner will buy the property, tear it down the property, that property owner is walking away with a profit versus a loss.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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