Though budgets at all levels of government are being cut, there’s still a range of programs overseen by the state available to help cities, business owners and residents with housing and economic development needs.
Saralyn Stafford, assistant commissioner for External Affairs & Local Government Assistance at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, outlined a number of those at a meeting of the Macon City Council’s Community Resources and Development Committee this week.
Macon is already making great use of DCA aid in many areas, such as a $1.5 million grant intended to turn Atlantic Cotton Mill into apartments, Stafford said. The grant is being redirected because the mill building burned in March.
“We’re hoping to find a suitable project very soon on that one,” she said.
And the city has made good use of a $4.1 million Neighborhood Stabilization Grant, to renovate single-family houses and build new affordable housing, Stafford said.
“We point to y’all as an example of how this program should work,” she said.
But it’s not just the city that can get help from DCA. Tax credits, grants, loans and technical assistance are available to businesses, property owners and homebuyers, Stafford said.
Georgia was one of seven states to get money for home mortgage help under the last phase of the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program.
“We received about $339 million for this program,” she said.
Starting this past April, some Georgia homebuyers who are behind on mortgage payments because of job loss can get a forgivable loan to make their payments for up to 18 months, Stafford said.
The program is expected to help about 18,000 Georgia families and can be used on mortgages up to $417,000, she said.
Those already in foreclosure aren’t eligible, but those who had good payment records before becoming unemployed or underemployed can fill out a simple online application, Stafford said.
“How do you define ‘underemployed?’” City Councilman Larry Schlesinger asked.
Generally, it means people who have had to take jobs paying much less than their previous ones because of the recession, but a detailed definition is on the Georgia HomeSafe website, Stafford said.
People who get the loan can have all of it forgiven if they make regular mortgage payments for the next five years, she said.
With the aim of redeveloping downtown Macon and other commercial areas, the BoomTown initiative can give businesses tax credits for hiring in specific areas and loans to help growth.
That website is open for anyone to explore, with specific information for various professions such as accountants, attorneys, landowners, lenders and developers.
For residential property rental, there’s a listing-and-search site for landlords and prospective tenants.
Just in Macon, there are 293 properties listed, but obviously there are hundreds more that could be posted, Stafford said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.