City seeks funds to buy, replace unsuitable homes

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 15, 2005

Officials remain optimistic about funding possibilities for twoprojects designed to help a group of Brookhaven homeowners.

One project would see the purchase of some homes in flood-proneareas of Ward Three, while the other would see new homes built forselected Ward Two residents. Local and state officials recentlytoured areas that would benefit from the funding.

Mayor Bob Massengill said he, planner Woody Sample and JanaHenderson, from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency,visited four homes and one manufactured home that would bepurchased as part of the state MEMA program. Three of the homes areon Center Street and two are on Saint George Street.

“Some of these homes have flooded as many as nine times in thelast few years,” Massengill said.

The MEMA program would cover 75 percent of home appraisal andpurchase costs, attorney fees, demolition and other expenses, withthe city being responsible for the remaining 25 percent. Purchasedhomes would be demolished, with the land converted to “green space”and never used again.

Owners whose homes are purchased would be out of a bad situationbut would have to find new living arrangements, officials havesaid. The city’s funding application is pending, Massengillsaid.

“The application is in the hands of MEMA, but indications we’vebeen given suggest our application definitely has a good chance,”Massengill said.

The mayor said officials should know something within the next60 days. He was hoping to be able to begin appraisals soon.

“There’ll be two appraisals on each property,” Massengill said.”I’m hopeful that process can get started in 30 to 45 days.”

Massengill said officials are moving ahead as if the applicationwill be approved. He said he appreciated homeowners’ patience.

“It takes a while to get this kind of program approved,”Massengill said.

In other action, officials visited five homes slated forreplacement as part of the HOME program through the MississippiDevelopment Authority. Massengill, Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates,Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District Planner RoyGeoghegan and two MDA representative participated in the sitevisit.

“We feel very encouraged there,” Massengill said of the fundingchances.

Geoghegan agreed.

“A site visit is not a guarantee of funding, but it’s a goodindication,” he said.

In the application, the city is seeking $333,650 to replacehomes on Beauregard Street, Egypt Circle and Dr. Martin Luther KingJr. Drive. To qualify for rebuilding, the homes had to be deemedsubstandard in five areas, including roof and electrical.

“Without exception, I think they all qualify,” Massengillsaid.

In years past, the city has sought grant assistance for homesthat were spread out across the city. Massengill said he believeshaving the homes concentrated in one area will help this year’sapplication chances.

If approved, Geoghegan said the city will receive the funds andthe homeowners will work with contractors on home replacement.Under the program, Geoghegan said homeowners may not lease theirrebuilt homes but they may sell them.

However, Geoghegan said a sale is unlikely given homeowners’likely inability to find alternate living arrangements for thevalue of their new homes. He said the estimates on the home workare in the $56,000 range.

Pending grant approval, officials would like to get the homework done quickly.

“The idea is to tear them down and rebuild them in a four- tosix-week period,” Massengill said.