Rockdale applies for NSP grant

CONYERS - Rockdale County has joined with five other metro Atlanta counties to apply for $54 million in federal grants for the second round of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Rockdale, along with Clayton, DeKalb, Henry, Gwinnett and Douglas counties, is seeking additional money to continue ongoing efforts to purchase foreclosed houses, rehabilitate them and assist qualified buyers in purchasing them. The Atlanta Regional Commission is acting as the lead agency in the grant application.

In March, Rockdale County was awarded $2.7 million to establish a program from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.The new grant application was filed Wednesday for what is referred to as round two of NSP funding. The counties should learn if the grant is awarded by October, according to Levar Rice, an ARC regional planner.

Unlike with the first grant, this process will be competitive among communities across the country. Rice said it was determined that the counties, all of which had received NSP funding early this year, would have a better chance for additional grant money if they applied on a regional effort.

The first grant was an allocation of funding based jurisdiction and the number foreclosures versus the total number of housing units. Rice explained this grant will be more complicated with formulas determining funding based on foreclosures in census tracts within counties.

If approved, Rockdale would be in line to receive another $2.7 million to extend the current program. Rice said the goal is to rehabilitate 900 houses over the next three years across the five counties.

"It would be a win-win for everybody," Rice said. "The banks will get the properties off their books, the counties will have residents who'll have more ownership in the residential areas and citizens will be able to stay in the community."

Rockdale County officials also updated the current NSP process during a public information hearing Wednesday.

County Grant Administrator Alice Cintron said she and other county officials were preparing for an outreach effort next month to Realtors, lenders, employers and through other outlets to get the word out on the requirements to qualify for the program.

"The actual announcement will be created by (Rockdale County) public affairs and will just list the program income guidelines, set by HUD, and several stipulations such as you can't own any other residential properties, you intend to occupy the property as your primary residence and you must get preapproved by a mortgage company," Cintron said.

The program also requires prospective homeowners to participate in homeownership counseling. Those who meet all of those requirements would then be eligible for mortgage assistance from the program, Cintron said.

Possible locations for the program to purchase houses for the program have not been determined, but will likely be along the Interstate 20 corridor and down Salem Road - areas that have been identified as the hardest hit by foreclosures by federal housing officials, Cintron said.

The four asset management firms selected last month will likely have their contracts approved by the Board of Commissioners at its July 28 meeting. Cintron said selecting properties will be the responsibility of those firms, but they will also have to meet HUD guidelines.

APD Solutions LLC and the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership Inc. were chosen last month as the primary firms in Rockdale's program. Affordable Housing Community Development of Conyers and Jewel of the South of Lithonia were named the secondary firms.

APD Solutions and Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership will provide the bulk of the services and direct $1.5 million of the grant money toward potential home buyers who earn between 50 and 120 percent of the county's area median income, or AMI, of $71,700 per year.

Affordable Housing Community Development and Jewel of the South will split the remaining 25 percent of the NSP grant money, or $695,000. The firms will work to rehab and sell houses to those whose income is 50 percent or less of the AMI, which is a requirement of the federal grant.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.