Neighborhood Stabilization Program Fights Blight

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ForeclosuresIt looks like one program looking to heal neighborhoods scarred by home loan foreclosures is doing some good, at least according to a growing stack of local newspaper clippings.

The Federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program has handed out close to $6 billion so far to help fix the broken windows of abandoned and foreclosed homes across the country. Local officials and housing groups can use cash from the program to buy and rehab blighted residential buildings. Or they can create financing tools to help others buy and rehab the properties. They can also set up land banks to hold the properties for eventual redevelopment or simply demolish the empty homes.

Empty houses can quickly drag down property values -- particularly if the homes are empty because of a foreclosure. Experts estimate that more than half of all foreclosed houses are vandalized before new residents move in.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program started with nearly $4 billion in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Congress gave the program another nearly $2 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus. Where has it gone? Here's a round up of how some areas across the country are putting the money to use:

• In Mesa, Ariz., $9.6 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program cash is helping local officials buy abandoned and foreclosed houses, fix them up, and sell them to first-time homeowners, according to the Arizona Republic.

• In Rockdale County, Ga., officials are using their $2.7 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to buy, rehabilitate, and sell abandoned homes to low- and moderate-income families, according the local Rockdale Citizen. Currently, the county has 14 of these homes for sale.

• In Fairfield, Calif., officials are handing out $2.3 million from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program as loans to purchase or rehabilitate foreclosed homes, according to local news reports. Homes bought with these loans must be occupied by low- and moderate-income home buyers.

• In Ironton-Lawrence County, Ohio, local officials are planning to demolish 33 blighted or abandoned houses this year. Officials will sign contracts to knock down a dozen of these homes this week, according to the local Ironton Tribune, using $180,000 in federal Stimulus money from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

• In Cherokee County, Kan., local officials will use their $180,000 federal grant to buy and rehab three foreclosed homes from American Bank, based in Baxter Springs, Kan., according reports in the local paper.
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