City awarded housing grant

Published 8:01 am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

FRANKLIN—Franklin has been one of Virginia’s hardest-hit communities during the foreclosure crisis. However, thanks to a grant award, the city will be able to turn vacant and foreclosed homes that dot city neighborhoods into affordable housing.

Gov. Tim Kaine announced on Monday that Franklin was awarded a $400,000 Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant to purchase, rehabilitate and sell foreclosed properties in the city. The grant is part of $9.4 million in NSP funds allocated to nine communities across Virginia.

“We’re excited,” said Donald Goodwin, the city’s director of community development. The city originally applied for $503,519.91 in grant funding and Goodwin said he wasn’t sure why the city will only receive $400,000.

“I don’t think the $400,000 amount is going to be our limit as long as we can keep producing,” he said. He also said that the cut might have been related to the drop in home values since the city first applied.

The grant money will be used to purchase vacant and foreclosed homes at a reduced price and then rehabilitate them and sell them to low- and medium-income families.

The city is required to spend the grant funds within 12 months, and profit from sales must be sent back to the state, which will evaluate the community’s need for additional assistance.

“It’s like a revolving loan fund,” said Amanda Jarratt, the city’s deputy director of community development. “It all goes back to the state and then they reallocate it based on the need.”

When the city applied for the grant, there were four vacant properties, two in the Meadowbrook neighborhood and two in Oldtown that the city eyed for the program. Jarratt said the four properties are still available.

“We’re planning on getting started as soon as possible now that we’ve received notification,” she said Tuesday.

Goodwin said that the city is in the process of acquiring an appraiser for the properties and is looking to move forward from there.

“We’re pedal to the medal basically,” he said.

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.

“We’ve partnered with the Redevelopment and Housing Authority and their role is to help us find clients, families that would meet the income requirements and are creditworthy for the loans,” Goodwin said.

People interested in the program can contact the Office of Community Development or the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

While he would rather people buy homes to live in, Goodwin said that investors who buy homes to rent out are still better than blighted, crime-breeding vacant homes in neighborhoods.

“(The homes) are not sitting there vacant, even thought it’s not the absolute best picture we’d like to see,” he said. “But as long as they’re being purchased and rehabbed, I think that’s the goal. It’s still a good thing.”

Currently, there are more than 28,000 Virginia homeowners in the process of foreclosure and there are more than 16,000 vacant foreclosed homes in the state.