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Change could help more people purchase homes

Springfield’s Habitat program will be able to serve higher income levels.

City residents who make more money than those traditionally served by the Clark County Community Habitat for Humanity could have an opportunity to purchase homes next year.

Upcoming changes to the city’s agreement with the U.S. Housing and Urban Development could allow low-income citizens to purchase Neighborhood Stabilization Program homes built by Habitat for Humanity in the Grand Avenue South neighborhood. The houses are currently available only to residents in the very low-income range.

According to Neighborhood Stabilization Program requirements, 25 percent of funds must be set aside to serve the very low-income population, which includes individuals or families who make less than 50 percent of the area median income.

The city – which received approximately $8.5 million for both the NSP1 and NSP2 programs designed to aid communities rocked by waves of abandoned, foreclosed houses – believed it could reach the 25 percent set aside through projects with Habitat for Humanity and other housing partners.

Recently, Clark County Community Habitat for Humanity has been turning people away from buying homes because they make too much money, according to Shannon Meadows, the city’s community development director.

The national Habitat for Humanity has had a similar problem, Meadows said. They are asking local affiliates to allow for people who make up to 80 percent of the area median income to purchase homes – which is considered the low income population — but target families in the 60 to 70 percent AMI range.

Meadows said 50 percent AMI is approximately $22,000, while 80 percent AMI is approximately $36,000, Meadows said.

The city believes it can increase the AMI of the program and still reach its required set aside, Meadows said.

Habitat for Humanity has sold six of the 10 homes in built in the Grand Avenue South area as part of the NSP2 project. Four homes remain unsold, Meadows said.

The Grand Avenue South area is a “growing and strengthening neighborhood” and it would be “shortsighted” to limit those homes to a certain economic group, Meadows said.

“It’s always been the goal of NSP in partnership with a lot of other programs like (The Promise Neighborhood) to change the face of the neighborhood both inside and out with the neighbors themselves,” Meadows said.

Meadows said the changes are a sign the efforts of a program like the Promise Neighborhood are succeeding. The fact that Habitat is turning away people from the neighborhood because they make too much money is a good thing, Meadows said.

“It shows economic diversity and interest in the neighborhood,” Meadows said. “We want to be able to keep housing options reasonable and available to those who have been traditionally under-served, but also recognize that diversity in socioeconomic status is a very good thing for a neighborhood.”

The change to the NSP agreement with HUD was recently approved by the city’s Community Grant Advisory Board and the 10-day comment period has ended.

The city commission and HUD will likely approve the program change before the end of the year. Once that’s completed, the city will change its contract with Habitat to allow the sales at the higher income range. The changes are expected to be completed early next year, Meadows said.

For Habitat for Humanity, the NSP project was the largest in its program’s history. The group built 16 homes since it began its NSP project in May of 2010, and has built 57 in its history.

The changes could also provide a boost in income for Habitat for Humanity. It recently owed $2,058 in taxes on nine delinquent properties, but couldn’t pay because of financial issues. The taxes have since been paid by donations, according to officials.

While the program increases the amount of people who can buy the homes, Meadows said it will not exclude very low income individuals.

“They’re still serving the same clients they’ve always served, they’re just increasing their ability to serve more clients,” Meadows said.

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