Grant would address derelict properties and need for affordable housing

Published 9:20 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017

By agreeing to apply for a $500,000 Mississippi Home Corp. Blight Elimination Program grant, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is addressing two serious city issues — blighted property and the need for affordable housing — in one move.

Under the Blight Elimination Program, derelict homes with a clear title will be demolished and the property owner sells the vacant property to a “blight partner,” an organization like Habitat for Humanity, which will build a new home on the site. The city gets rid of an eyesore and someone in need of housing gets a home.

The Blight Elimination Program is a new program for the Mississippi Home Corp., which was organized in 1989 to enhance Mississippi’s economy by financing safe, decent, affordable housing for families.

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City housing director Gertrude Young said the money is approved and no match is needed, adding Vicksburg is one of the target cities for the grant.

“They contacted us because we are one of the few cities demolishing our own properties through our city funds,” she said. “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.”

Derelict homes and blighted properties have been a long-term problem for Vicksburg. The city has a list several pages long of homes that have not been kept up or abandoned and fell into decay. When the city has to raze a home, it hires a private contractor and bills the property owner.

If the property owner fails to pay the city, a lien is placed on the property. In some cases, a piece of property may have so many liens on it that the total value of the liens is more than the property’s value and the property remains vacant because it won’t sell.

That’s what makes this grant program so important. It gets rid of the blight, redevelops the property, and helps the property owner.

“When we talk with them (the property owners), they’re willing to work with us,” Young said, “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, that property owner is walking away with a profit versus a loss.”

A win-win situation for all.