In 2009 Kent County received a $2.5 million federal grant part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. In 2011 the county received another grant of around $700,000 called Neighborhood Stabilization 2.
The county put that money toward purchasing abandoned foreclosed homes, renovating them and turning them over to low income families or non-profit organizations.
Levy Court President Brooks Banta is set to sign two memorandums of understanding next week for two NSP houses in Smyrna. The county is partnering with Habitat for Humanity and Diamond State Community Land Trust for the renovation and sale of these two houses.
Kent County provides the money to purchase the house and land and Diamond State holds the deed. When the house is sold to a low-income family or to Habitat for Humanity, the house is sold separately from the land. Diamond City retains ownership of that land. This makes the transaction much more affordable for families, says Mary Ellen Gray, assistant director of planning service for Kent County.
“Let’s say a property is appraised for $100,000 with the house and land,” Gray said. “The land is probably somewhere around 25 or 30 percent of that value. So we can sell the house for around $70,000 give or take. Diamond State owns the land and removes it from the cost. The ground is then leased to the property owner for 99 years for $40 a month.”
In cases where the county partners with Habitat for Humanity – such is the case with the two new houses in Smyrna − Kent County essentially takes on the role of the mortgage lender. It loans Habitat for Humanity the money needed to purchase the house. The family then takes ownership of the house and makes payments to Habitat for Humanity, which in turn gives those payments back to Kent County, which returns the money to the NSP funds so that the program can continue.
It works much the same with individual families. Kent County buys the house and the homeowner makes payments back to the county.
Some homes, however, are purchased by the county and gifted to non-profits such as The Shepherd Place and Peoples Place, who agree to rent the properties to low-income families for no more than 30 percent of their income. The rent they collect is used to maintain the properties.
The memorandums of understanding, which were presented for discussion in the Tuesday Levy Court meeting, are scheduled to be signed by Levy Court President Brooks Banta on May 28.