Details released about controversial foreclosure funds

Lake Wildwood residents who were at first skeptical about a new plan to combat foreclosures in Bibb County appear to be warming up to the idea.

Resident Norman Brown told Bibb County commissioners during their Tuesday meeting that a plan to offer down payment assistance on foreclosed properties seems to match up well with his community.

“I think it is something that will work well for all involved,” he said.

Brown said later that a continuing flow of information from city and county officials has allayed the fears of many residents, who worried such a program may help people buy homes they otherwise couldn’t afford.

“Just talking to various residents, it appears there’s been some changes in attitude about the program on the part of lots of residents to the positive,” he said.

The flow of information continued Tuesday as Kevin DuBose, Macon’s director of the city’s Economic and Community Development Department, gave the commission and Macon City Council more details about the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, of which the down payment assistance plan is a part.

Commissioners took the opportunity to pepper DuBose with questions about how the program would work and how the $4.1 million they expect to receive would be spent.

Of the $4.1 million, $2.5 million has been designated to Macon. Officials plan to use the $4.1 million to leverage an additional $16 million in public, private and foundation funding, DuBose said. About 150 properties are expected to be affected.

According to a memo to elected officials from DuBose, the money is planned to be used mainly in three ways:

Ÿ To redevelop a large, tax delinquent, vacant and multi-family development in partnership with the Macon Housing Authority.

Housing will be reserved for low-income individuals and families below the 50 percent median income in Bibb County. For a family of four, that would be $26,400.

This would use about $1.5 million of the program’s funds, as well as low-income housing tax credits.

Ÿ To redevelop up to 50 tax delinquent vacant lots and obsolete housing through the Macon-Bibb County Landbank Authority and other housing partners.

This would be concentrated in areas with high-risk abandonment and foreclosures such as Pleasant Hill, east Macon, lower Beall’s Hill, south Macon and Montpelier Heights. About $1.3 million in program funds would be used.

Ÿ To create a “gap financing” program that provides down payment assistance for purchasers of foreclosed properties.

The sellers would have to rehabilitate the properties and have them inspected before they are sold. Buyers must be at or below 120 percent of Bibb’s median income — $62,400 for a family of four — and be qualified to obtain a first mortgage. This would be available throughout the county, but marketing may be focused in neighborhoods with high foreclosure rates such as Lake Wildwood. This would use about $1 million of program funding. The remainder of the money would be used for administrative costs.

Officials are planning a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Terminal Station and expect to have a draft plan available Monday for public comment.

They need to move quickly, however. The application deadline is Jan. 15. Before then, the city and county must adopt inter-local agreements, and the city needs to adopt a mid-year budget amendment.

Bibb Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson said the program is not going to solve all the county’s problems.

“This is only a few drops in the bucket,” he said.

But DuBose stressed that the money is something.

“If we do what we say we’re going to do, we’re going to use $4 million to leverage $16 million and help a lot of properties,” he said.