NSP hires coordinator

CONYERS -- Residents will soon hear more about houses available through Rockdale County's Neighborhood Stabilization Program as contractors complete renovations.

The Rockdale County Neighborhood Stabilization Program has acquired 14 houses so far to be rehabilitated. Seven houses are already posted to the county government's Web site with more planned as they become ready, according to Alice Cintron, Rockdale County's grant administrator.

Locations of the houses purchased were based on foreclosure rates in the area. Of the seven houses already listed on the Web site, five are located in the Crescent View subdivision with other houses in Laurel Woods and Windridge subdivisions.

Rockdale County was awarded a $2.7 million grant in March as part of the federal government's economic stimulus money to purchase, rehabilitate and sell houses in neighborhoods hardest hit by the recent wave of foreclosures.

Four vendors were hired to purchase and rehabilitate the houses. Cintron said those renovations should be completed by the end of this month. The next step is to find qualified people to move into the houses.

Rockdale County hired Tanesha Lanier as the NSP coordinator last week. Cintron said Lanier's job will be to take the NSP to the next level in overseeing the rehabilitation process among the four vendors, matching people with houses and coordinating homeowner and personal finance counseling that is required by the grant.

Lanier was hired as an independent contractor at a pay rate of $20 per hour not to exceed 40 hours per week. Funding of the position will come from the grant, Cintron said.

The NSP has accepted applications since its inception and maintains a list of people. Cintron said the county has received only a small number of actual applicants.

"We've received more phone calls than we did applications," she said. "Because Rockdale has never had a program like this I think people, when they call, the first impression was a traditional housing program where we just put you in a house, and that is not how it works."

Qualifying for a home loan through a bank is key, Cintron said, and many people who called said they could not meet the requirement. But for those who can, the program offers a chance to move into a refurbished house at a discounted price, considering the drop in property values across the county.

"Meeting the qualifications is the key thing and being prepared and financially ready to move into a house," Cintron said. "We're not training up anyone from a place where they are not ready. Just because you're on a list, and even if you are eligible, you still have to be able to get a loan from a bank. That disqualifies a lot of people, but at the same time the county is not qualifying anybody for a bank loan."

She said the county will publicize the NSP more in the coming months with flyers and public service announcements on the county-operated cable channel, Rockdale 23, in order to attract qualified home buyers.

The NSP is focused on providing housing to low- or moderate-income families that is based on scale from one person with an annual income of at least $25,100, to larger families with annual salaries of more than $110,000.

Applications will be available at Nancy Guinn Memorial Library, the Olivia Haydel Senior Center and other county government buildings.

Additional information and a listing of houses available can be found at www.rockdalecounty.org, under department listings for Neighborhood Stabilization Program.