Funds target neighborhood stabilization
BRUNSWICK — Bath and Brunswick are slated to receive $1.3 million from the federal stimulus package to buy and redevelop abandoned or foreclosed properties.
The funding is part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which seeks to stem the negative impact abandoned and foreclosed properties can have on values of surrounding properties.
About $19.6 million in funding from the Economic Recovery Act of 2008 has been sent to the state’s Office of Community Development, which will distribute the money.
Bath is expected to receive $704,000, while more than $664,000 is earmarked for Brunswick. Lisbon, which is part of the same region, will receive nearly $640,000. The three communities were among the 15 identified by DECD as being at risk.
DECD used a scoring formula to determine funding priorities. While all three communities were determined to have relatively low foreclosure ratings, impacts from the 2011 closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station were also considered.
Brunswick scored the highest in the Mid-Coast, followed by Lisbon and Bath. Sanford, Lewiston and Portland had the highest overall foreclosure scores.
Bath was chosen to administer the funds locally. Al Smith, the city’s community development director, said the program allows towns or housing agencies to identify abandoned or foreclosed properties and use the money to rehabilitate, demolish or landbank them.
“The whole purpose is to get these properties back in use,” Smith said, adding that residential properties would most likely be targeted, but that there may be opportunities to redevelop blighted commercial properties. Smith said Bath is in the process of identifying properties that could be considered. He declined to name specific locations.
Amanda Similien, of the Brunswick Economic and Community Development office, said the town is still evaluating potential locations.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is administered through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and its Community Development Block Grant program. CDBG programs typically target low- to moderate-income families, which means 51 percent of the redeveloped properties must be sold to families earning up to 80 percent of the area’s median income.
However, Smith said, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program allows families earning 120 percent of the median income to purchase rehabilitated properties.
Both Smith and Similien said that although municipalities were allowed to buy and redevelop, it was more likely that local agencies like the Brunswick Housing Authority or Bath Development Corporation would do so.
Towns would have to buy properties below market value. Any dividends received from the sale would have to be redistributed to the program.
Similien said the program is geared more toward rental properties and not more expensive single-family homes.
“It’s mostly those homes that have been on the market forever, and thus, are in foreclosure,” she said.
Smith said he hoped to announced Bath’s priorities for purchase and redevelopment soon.