EDITORIAL: Housing successes

Tupelo’s long-term efforts to encourage and empower home ownership for moderate- and low-income residents adds another success to its portfolio with announcement of a city-initiated $500,000 program for first-time home buyers/builders.
While the two-part program will fund only 17 grants of either $25,000 or $35,000, depending on the type of first-time ownership sought by applicants, the results will add value to existing and new housing stocks, grow the ad valorem tax rolls, increase the net worth of homeowners, stabilize neighborhoods, and turn a profit for participating banks.
Zell Long, Tupelo’s longtime director of the Neighborhood Development Corp. and chief of the Community Development Division operating through City Hall, said similar programs have led to 100 families purchasing or building homes in the past seven years and impressively, no defaults.
Long also is the chief grant application writer for the city’s housing efforts, and in the process she has helped win the participation of Renasant Bank, M amp& F Bank, and Trustmark Bank as private-sector partners in the newest venture.
The kind of program Long administers can be renewed if the funds granted can be applied to home ownership within two years, but renewal is not automatic, and Long said the process can become prolonged because of red tape at higher levels, a frequent complaint in dealing with any kind of federal funding.
One of the best aspects of the grant program is its rehabilitation of formerly derelict tax-confiscated properties, properties that have lost value to the point that a tax credit by donation becomes preferable to private-sector development, and properties donated after they have been condemned under the city’s codes.
Redeveloped for owner-occupied housing, the value to the city immediately becomes productive. Long said the Neighborhood Development Corp.’s properties are scattered across the city and that some are in neighborhoods in need of the stability home ownership brings.
We agree with Long’s suggestion of encouraging donated properties, privately held, including rentals, that would be difficult to redevelop, for an owner’s or developer’s tax credit, then resold as residential property under the various ownership programs, especially the community land trust.
“I would welcome inquiries about those kinds of properties,” Long said Monday in an interview with the Daily Journal.
Tupelo’s official efforts to encourage home ownership are doubly important during a recession, especially one driven by a mortgage crisis and a lowering of housing values.
Potential customers whose financial history qualifies them for special grants and loans benefit most from Tupelo’s programs, and they need to continue.

NEMS Daily Journal