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County to fix up houses

CONYERS - There are a little more than 200 foreclosed properties in Rockdale County, but a $2.7 million grant is going to help get families back in some of those homes.

The nearly $3 million grant the county received in March was part of the first round of funding from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant program, funded through the state.

The county uses the money to purchase vacant foreclosed homes and make the necessary repairs.

Eligible residents can receive up to $14,500 of financial assistance for a down payment for one of the homes.

Officials announced this week that applications for assistance are now being accepted.

Income level, based on a sliding scale of family size, and certification and counseling requirements determine eligibility.

The goal for Rockdale is to purchase at least 22 properties, the amount the county put on its application to the state, by September 2010, said Rockdale County NSP coordinator Alice Cintron.

Cintron said the county has to show some progress by the end of the year that homes have been purchased and sold.

Homes purchased with NSP funds will be sold based on the appraised market value.

Like much of the country, Cintron explained Rockdale County went through "the big boom, then the big crash" of the housing crisis.

NSP goes hand in hand with efforts by the Conyers Housing Authority to keep foreclosed homes off the market.

"The only difference between (what the Housing Authority does) is their program is focused specifically and solely on low-income families," Cintron said. "NSP is designed to stabilize and reduce the foreclosure market."

Homes purchased with NSP funds will go through the normal housing inspection process, Cintron explained, with evaluations done by a county inspector.

"We're going to make sure that the property is properly inspected before it's purchased and properly inspected when we get ready to sell it," Cintron said.

Foreclosures in Rockdale County topped 282 in both September and June, the county's highest record according to legal notices published in the Citizen. But not all those homes are new foreclosure cases. Some may be foreclosures that were previously published but came out of foreclosure before the property was sold. Sales happen the first Tuesday of each month and all foreclosures run four weeks prior to a sale.

Lamar Sims, chairman of the Rockdale County Tax Assessor's board, will discuss the effects foreclosed properties have on neighborhoods as Tuesday's guest speaker for the South Rockdale Civic Association.

The meeting starts at

7:30 p.m. at Union United Methodist Church and is open to the public.

For more information on purchasing a home through NSP, call 770-278-7551.

Alena Parker can be reached at alena.parker@rockdalecitizen.com.