Program helps Holly Springs residents become homeowners

CATEGORY: Marshall County

AUTHOR: JEFFRI

Program helps Holly Springs residents become homeowners

By Cynthia M. Jeffries

Daily Journal

HOLLY SPRINGS – Hazel Walker resolved several years ago that she would one day move out of her high-rent housing project and into her own home. She’s kept that resolution.

On New Year’s Day, Walker crossed the threshold into her own three-bedroom, brick home and the world of a first-time home buyer.

The 36-year-old factory worker and mother of two was able to buy her home thanks in large part to the city of Holly Springs, which put an $8,000 down payment on Walker’s home.

It’s all part of a program to help low-income tenants obtain their first home.

“I like having my own home,” Walker said. “I wanted a home in a quiet neighborhood.”

Walker is one of 25 residents the city has helped either buy or build a house since 1993. The down payments the city is providing come from a combined $370,000 grant from the Mississippi Home Program, which originated out of a federal Housing and Urban Development program.

Holly Springs was the only Mississippi town to apply for the grant. During the first 18-month grant period, city officials used the majority of $270,000 grant to help 20 families become first-time home buyers by putting $12,000 toward each homeowner’s down payment.

The second grant the city received was for $100,000. Because of the smaller grant, the city reduced its contribution to an $8,000 down payment for each homeowner. So far, five families have purchased a home using the second grant.

Holly Springs received an award last month at the Mississippi Municipal Association conference from the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University recognizing the city’s efforts to move people out of government housing and into their own homes.

How to qualify

To qualify for the program, a prospective homeowner must live in one of Holly Springs’ low-income housing apartment complexes; the person is usually recommended by his or her apartment manager. The future homeowner also must promise to either build or buy a home within city limits.

The prospective homeowner also must be employed because he or she will have to repay a low-interest loan obtained from a bank, a mortgage company or the Farmer’s Home Administration on the remaining cost of the house, said Reuben Pegues, the executive director of the Community Development and Urban Renewal Agency in Holly Springs.

Most of the homes cost between $35,000 and $45,000. Walker, who lived with her sister in a Valley Street apartment, was paying $510 a month in rent. She now has a $350 monthly mortgage note on her $48,000 home on Southwest Green Briar Circle.

Holly Springs Mayor Eddie Smith said the program is a product of the entire city working together. The majority of the loans are written by local banks. The majority of the construction is done by Holly Springs contractors. And some realtors have also benefited by being able to move homes off of their lists.

The Stennis award

Holly Springs was one of five Mississippi cities that received the Stennis award. Other cities included Tupelo for its Major Thoroughfare Program, Jackson for a juvenile fire-setters intervention program, Meridian for a municipal court fines collection program and Vicksburg for a juvenile alternative program.

The Stennis award, named in honor of former the U.S. senator and 1923 Mississippi State graduate, was designed to enhance state and local government through research, training and technical assistance. It is also supposed to be used to conduct research and provide assistance specifically focusing on rural development and to promote civic education and citizen involvement in the political process.

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