The city of Covington has decided to partner with a North Carolina nonprofit to redevelop several foreclosed properties in historic neighborhoods as part of the federal government’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
The chosen nonprofit to partner with the city, Builders of Hope, has also been selected by Atlanta to manage the city’s own redevelopment of foreclosed homes using NSP funds.
The Covington City Council and the Newton County Board of Commissioners were given a joint-presentation on Builders of Hope’s history and past projects at Monday’s council meeting by Planning and Zoning Director Shelley Stiebling.
The city council voted to apply for NSP funding and to partner with Builders of Hope if and when they receive the funding. The BOC had their own vote on whether to take part in the program and on whether to partner with Builders of Hope Tuesday night after press deadline.
Past work by Builders of Hope in North Carolina has saved scores of structurally-sound, bank-owned foreclosed homes from demolition by relocating them out of blighted areas to new neighborhoods and redeveloping them with improvements such as wide front porches, drought-resistant landscaping, Internet access and energy efficient appliances.
These redeveloped, high-quality homes are then sold at affordable prices to low median income families.
In the case of Covington though, no homes will be moved from their present locations. The neighborhoods of Green Acres and Jefferson Village have been targeted for the program and some foreclosed homes there have already been scouted for possible redevelopment.
Stiebling said the city is looking for "extreme rehab" houses to purchase and redevelop.
"We have asked to partner with Builders of Hope so that we don’t have a learning curve," said Covington Mayor Kim Carter.
Builders of Hope facilitates agreements between business communities, nonprofits and local governments to provide job training in construction, masonry carpentry, etc. to the homeless, chronically unemployed and at-risk youth who are put to work redeveloping foreclosed homes..
"It’s really quite amazing," Stiebling said. "They deal not only with the housing, but with the individual who is going to be a participant."
Builders of Hope partners with wireless Internet providers who agree to provide Internet services to residents of the new homes at affordable rates. Builders of Hope also works with businesses such as Home Depot and Sears to acquire construction materials and appliances at discounted rates.
The organization uses sustainable building materials and energy efficiency building standards for all of their homes. The homes are recognizable for all being set above the ground.
"They do not do any kind of slab building. It is always on piers," Stiebling said.
The houses are also given distinctive facades, new wiring and plumbing and HVAC systems.
Should the city be awarded the $450,000 in NSP funds it has been allocated by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which is administering the distribution of program monies, work on redeveloping the selected foreclosed properties must begin quickly as the city only has 15 months left to spend the allocated funds.
The city is likely to only have enough funds to purchase and redevelop a few of the foreclosed properties.
Newton County has been allocated $2.1 million in NSP funds.
"This is not just funding to put people in cheap homes," said Newton County Chair Kathy Morgan. "It’s also to put back pride in neighborhoods."
Builders of Hope will bring in its own project manager and will likely set up some kind of satellite office in Covington, said Morgan. In the past, the nonprofit has partnered with local builders for the construction work. Morgan also said residents of the Rainbow Covenant Ministries homeless shelter may become involved in construction work.
"Other non-profits have done great jobs with this kind of work training program," said Flemmie Pitts, a community activist in Covington. "It’s a great program all around. It benefits the city, the county, the state."
Covington (and the county if they applied to take part in the program) will find out if they have been awarded their allocated funds in a few weeks.