on June 30, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Oconee shut out from federal housing funds

Oconee County was shut out from getting a share of $44 million in federal money dished out by the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority earlier this year in part because it does not have an organization or programs in place to act as a clearinghouse for such funding.

Instead, cities and counties with housing authorities or organizations dealing with affordable housing got the money made available through the U.S. Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP).

The money was to be used to purchase abandoned and foreclosed properties at a discount and rehabilitate, redevelop or demolish them.

Although the money did not make it into Oconee, other Upstate players benefited. Among the beneficiaries, the city of Greenville was awarded $5 million, city of Anderson ($2.1 million), city of Spartanburg ($2 million) and Pickens County housing programs ($925,000).

According to the State Housing Finance and Development Authority, there is still $2 billion available to the NSP in South Carolina from federal stimulus money. The agency said that distribution of these funds has not been determined.

In a recent interview, Oconee County Planning Department Director Art Holbrooks acknowledged that Oconee is at a disadvantage in competing for state and federal housing money because it does not have an organization in place to focus on housing issues.

Holbrooks hopes that will change soon. According to the planning official, he will recommend to the Planning Commission and County Council that a group or committee be named to focus on affordable housing.

“Having a group of some sort is one of the basic requirements that makes you eligible to receive certain dollars and low-interest loans,” Holbrooks said.

Holbrooks said the creation of such a group or committee to address housing issues, if council likes the idea, could be a starting point from which to move forward.

The recommendation would be incorporated as part of Oconee’s review of its Comprehensive Plan, which must be completed by Dec. 31. Housing is one of nine specific components or elements that comprise the Comprehensive Plan.

The Planning Department is hosting a stakeholders’ meeting at 5:30 this afternoon to discuss the Economic Development and Priority Investment elements of the Comprehensive Plan.

“This is one of the issues (affordable housing) that I’ve not heard any negatives from,” Holbrooks said. “It’d be a problem if we don’t do something.”