City to pursue neighborhood stabilization

COVINGTON - The city council agreed to pursue funding from the federal government's new Neighborhood Stabilization Program on Monday night, and named Builders of Hope, a nonprofit organization based in North Carolina, as its partner.

The city is eligible for $450,000 in funding to purchase and rehabilitate bank-owned, foreclosed properties and has until Jan. 15 to apply. The NSP is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and, on the state level, by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The city council held a joint work session with the Newton County Board of Commissioners on Monday night to learn more about the program and Builders of Hope, which, according to Mayor Kim Carter, will serve as the administrative arm for the project.

The city of Atlanta is partnering with the organization for its application, and the organization comes highly recommended by DCA, she said.

Builders of Hope facilitates partnerships between the business community, humanitarian organizations and local government entities to create home ownership for low-income families, according to Planning and Zoning Director Shelley Stiebling, who showed images of homes the organization has rehabilitated in North Carolina.

Environmentally friendly and energy-efficient materials and appliances are incorporated in the homes, and Hope will bring in a project manager to work with local builders and train workers from the community. Hope will also partner with local nonprofits to provide jobs for the homeless, unemployed and at-risk youth, Stiebling said.

Several locations in the city, including the Green Acres neighborhood, have been identified as potential beneficiaries of the rehabilitation, she said.

Carter said the city cannot pursue the program without the county's approval. The county is eligible for $2.1 million in funding - the city money is a portion of that larger pool.

BOC Chairman Kathy Morgan said the county has two resolutions prepared - one to pursue the $2.1 million, with the city included in its application, and one that would merely support the city seeking the funding.

Morgan expressed her support of the program, saying it would stabilize market values and has been proven to result in surrounding property owners cleaning up their properties.

"It's not just a project to put people in cheap houses," she said.

The Board of Commissioners was expected to take up the issue at its Tuesday night meeting.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.