City looking to use grant to revitalize neighborhoods
March 04, 2011
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Plantation is in the process of receiving federal money that would help the city spruce up neighborhoods and put homeowners into foreclosed properties.
Should everything go according to plan, the city will receive $1.2 million from the third round of the Neighborhood Stabilization Project, an effort by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"NSP is much more than beautification," said Laurence Leeds, the city's planning director. "NSP says the city is interested in the quality of homes in the neighborhood. … It benefits the entire block and the surrounding community."
By December 2010, Plantation had 605 homes in foreclosure, according to the Broward County Property Appraiser's Office.
NSP is focused on foreclosures, with most of the funds going to foreclosure acquisition, rehabilitation and resale of homes. According to a memorandum from Leeds to the mayor and City Council, 25 percent of the funds would be spent on condo purchases and rehabilitation.
To get the job done, the city partners with organizations such as the Broward Alliance for Neighborhood Development. The group has purchased 12 houses from the city, 10 of which have been sold to new homeowners. This year, there are plans to work on another six houses.
"We try to pay a lot of attention to neighborhood impact. … We often have neighbors come over and say 'Oh, we're so happy to have this eyesore taken care of,' because it's been sitting there vacant," said Pat Stephenson, BAND's executive director.
By fixing up neighborhoods, the program also assists nearby business owners. BAND hires local contractors and encourages them to use local suppliers, Stephenson said.
Leeds said that while NSP will have an impact on the foreclosure problem in Plantation, "to have a major impact would require considerably more federal funding."
Moreover, the program is under threat in the upcoming budget session. NSP is part of the $4.4 billion general Community Development Block Grant program, from which President Obama is proposing to cut $300 million and the Republican budget proposes to cut by $2.5 billion.
Plantation Mayor Rae Carole Armstrong said every year Plantation usually receives about $500,000 from the general CDBG money. She added that the National Conference of Mayors has previously fought CDBG budget cuts and is doing so again this year.
"We seem to go through this every year with the federal government," Armstrong said. "Each year so far we've been lucky and have been able to get [the program] funded."
To learn more about the rehabilitated homes in Plantation, call the Broward Alliance for Neighborhood Development at 954-581-9899.