Franklin awaits word on housing grant

Published 8:33 am Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FRANKLIN—Four families could soon be living in affordable rehabilitated formerly abandoned and foreclosed homes, thanks to a Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant the city applied for.

If the grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development is awarded to Franklin, it will provide the city with $503,519.91 to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed and vacant homes and resell them to low- to medium-income families.

“It’s a competitive grant,” Donald Goodwin, the city’s director of community development, said. Franklin is competing with other cities and counties across Virginia for the funding. “We haven’t heard yet whether we’ve been awarded the grant.”

The city was previously awarded a $25,000 planning grant through the Department of Housing and Community Development to study the impact of foreclosures in Franklin.

Goodwin said that the grant is not to help homeowners facing foreclosure but rather to prevent vacant homes from breeding crime and other undesirable elements in neighborhoods.

“This is basically to remove blight,” he said, noting some of the negative elements vacant homes encourage like vandalism and squatting. “This is an effort to move some of these properties.”

Goodwin said that the city has identified two properties in the Meadowbrook neighborhood and two more in Oldtown that it would like to purchase and rehabilitate. In an effort to keep the properties affordable, the city can only purchase them at 15 percent below their assessed value.

Potential buyers will be required to complete homeownership classes. The low-to-medium income families that will have the opportunity to buy the homes may also qualify for down payment and closing cost assistance through another grant program, HOME.

Foreclosure is already a big problem in Franklin. Goodwin said that data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows that the city’s rate of foreclosure per-capita is the third highest in the state, and he expects the numbers to rise.

“We feel like there may be some more foreclosures coming,” he said.

Goodwin described finding the properties as a “moving target.” That’s because owners of the vacant or foreclosed properties often sell them to whoever shows up with the money first, and that’s often an investor.

“Investor-owners are buying these to rent out, and that’s not what we want,” he said. “Our goal is to make homeowners.”

Goodwin said that he’s hoping to hear the result of the grant application by the beginning of September.