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City, county to finalize plans for using foreclosure aid funds
Public hearings May 18, May 19
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Covington will likely purchase its first foreclosed and bank-owned residential properties in June as part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The county is also finalizing its NSP project and both the city and county are holding public hearings to give updates and receive feedback on the NSP.

Covington is holding its NSP public hearing at the May 18 city council meeting and the county will hold its hearing at the May 19 Board of Commissioners meeting.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is a federal program that provides money to local governments to buy and rehabilitate residential foreclosed and bank-owned properties. The federal money was awarded through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Randy Vinson, city interim planning and zoning director, said Covington has already received approval from the DCA to work in the Jefferson Village neighborhood and is requesting permission to work in an even larger area including Green Acres, Nelson Heights and other neighborhoods. He said the DCA should give its final blessing to Covington soon and the city will probably buy its first properties in early June.

Another change for Covington is the non-profit organization the city is working with. The city previously chose the North Carolina-based Builders of Hope, but the organization did not receive the city of Atlanta’s NSP bid. Because Covington’s $428,000 of funding was so much less, the city felt it might not receive enough attention from BOH and decided to go with Habitat for Humanity of Newton County instead, Vinson said.

Vinson said Habitat already has policies and procedures in place for buying and rehabilitating residential properties that fit under the DCA’s and Housing and Urban Development department’s requirements for the NSP.

To clarify the process, the city will choose the properties it wants to buy and will then provide NSP money to the Covington Housing Authority to purchase the properties, because the authority is better equipped to do the purchasing.

On the county’s side, Senior Planner Scott Sirotkin said the county will be detailing which project or projects it pursues at the May 19 BOC meeting. He said the county will be issuing a Request for Proposal, seeking bids, for a non-profit agency to work with in the next couple of weeks. The county will also have to complete an environmental review of its plans, to determine the environmental effect of the projects. It will be issuing bids for this review in the next couple of weeks as well.

Once those steps are completed the county will be able to start purchasing properties, Sirotkin said.

The county has previously been approved to work in three areas with its $1.74 million of NSP funding: buying vacant foreclosed property and building a public park in the Salem Road area, buying vacant foreclosed lots and building homes on them in Porterdale and buying existing foreclosed houses and renovating them in Covington.

The money must be used to benefit low-to-moderate-income families, either through direct sale of a house or through the proper placement of a new park or other facilities.