Affordable housing mulled by Board of Aldermen

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2008

Robert Rosenthall of the Rosenthall Group believes there is away to build affordable housing in Brookhaven while rehabilitatingthe credit of potential buyers, and the Brookhaven Board ofAldermen was happy to listen to his ideas at Wednesday night’sboard meeting.

Rosenthall, a consultant for affordable housing, presented afive-year affordable housing proposal to the board, and explainedthat his research found that the city’s median income is around$30,000, but that the average income per capita is actually between$13,000 and $15,000. There is a way to build neighborhoods withattractive and affordable homes for people with an income of atleast $14,000, Rosenthall said.

“I don’t build cheap-looking or cheaply-built houses,” he said.”I find federal grants and do gap financing.”

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Rosenthall said he has worked on projects in places such asMeridian, Jackson, Canton, and the Delta in addition to helpingrehabilitate areas in New Orleans and on the Mississippi Gulf Coastthat were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The key, Rosenthall said, is to establish a redevelopmentauthority, similar to the housing authority, but strictly in chargeof redeveloping blighted areas, areas with small lots and abandonedhouses, and new development areas in town.

Mayor Bob Massengill asked Rosenthall what it would take toestablish a redevelopment authority, to which Rosenthall repliedthat once a director is chosen, the rest of the authority can bebuilt in whatever way the city sees fit, but that final approvalhas to go through the state.

The importance, he said, is to build a vision of what thecommunity should look like, and to fulfill that vision.

“The city of Madison, they chose what they wanted their city tolook like, and now, 10 years later, it’s a beautiful place tolive,” he said. “If you create a redevelopment authority, you askwhat do we want Brookhaven to look like in five to 10 years, andyou plan your neighborhoods.”

Through the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America(NACA), Rosenthall said part of the plan is to help fix the creditof people who want to move into the homes. He said most people’scredit can be brought up to the required 580 in a matter of months,which would put them in line to purchase one of the homes.

Rosenthall told the board that his company can also rehabilitateundesirable neighborhoods through what he called a 203K programwhich allows low-interest loans to bring houses up to code, as wellas to modernize them.

He said in the past they have worked with businesses such asSherwin Williams and recruited help from summer youth programs topaint and revitalize some such homes.

“Not only are our houses affordable and attractive, they’refunctional,” Rosenthall said. “We’ve learned lessons on what worksand what doesn’t work.”

Massengill and the board told Rosenthall they would look throughhis proposal and touch base with him in the next few weeks.