By Robyn Rogers, News Times Managing Editor

Some seeds of change sown by community leaders three years ago should get a growth Some seeds of change sown by community leaders three years ago should get a growth spurt now that Hartford City has been awarded $1.5 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) grant funds through the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

The money, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is meant to provide emergency aid to governments to acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties that might otherwise become sources of blight within their communities.

Hartford City was one of 21 projects funded from more than 100 applications received. According to the writer of the grant application, Hartford City did well in a competitive arena for several reasons but community support for cleaning up neighborhoods likely was the trump card.

High on the list of determining factors likely was the high number of foreclosures in Blackford County, with many more residences identified as "at-risk" of foreclosure by HUD.

NSP has provided grants to every state to purchase foreclosed or abandoned homes and to rehabilitate, resell, or redevelop them in order to stabilize neighborhoods and stem the decline of house values of neighboring homes. The program is authorized under Title III of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, so these are not stimulus funds.

Angie Pappano, vice president of Kenna Consulting out of Indianapolis, attended the announcement of the grants in downtown Indianapolis on Thursday. Besides Hartford City's grant proposal, Kenna wrote two other successful applications. Brazil in clay County and Gosport in Owen County also won awards from proposals written by Kenna. The company was involved in four proposals. Pappano credited local involvement and enthusiasm, particularly from the Blackford County Demolition Coalition, as being key.

Hartford City's enthusiasm got it noticed

She said a site visit to Hartford City in mid-February by some of the state employees responsible for making the awards definitely helped seal the deal.

"I think they felt like this community wanted it and couldn't get there on their own. Seeing the actual neighborhood made an impact. I know it made a difference to me," the grant writer said.

Hartford City Mayor Dennis Whitesell was first in town to hear the news and was delighted by it, even though the grant proposal requested about twice what was awarded.

"We'll take it," Whitesell said. "I think we can turn around and provide more nice liveable homes at a reasonable price," he said.

Project will be scaled

 The original proposal called for improving a large neighborhood bordered by Wall Street, one block east of Mill, and to the west by Wabash Avenue. The north border was Van Cleve Street and the south border was Commercial Street. Because the award is not the full amount requested, the project will need to be scaled down. The new neighborhood is yet to be determined as are many details of the program.

However, the mayor said demolition money for the T.W.O. building west of Bil's Foods downtown is now off the table, and two new construction homes for low to moderate income homeowners still are in the program.

"I think you should start to see hopefully a revitalized Hartford City and I think slowly we'll start building the pride back into hartford /city," the mayhor said.

"We'll be getting back to a community we all can be proud of," whitesell added, citing how the Ind. 26 widening has restored pride to West Washington Street.

Kenna, City, have history

Kenna Consulting and Management Group is the writer of the successful housing rehabilitation grant that will help nine Hartford City homes to be rehabilitated by October of this year.

According to Pappano. this new NSP program arose because a lot of communities are experiencing tax delinquencies, and "people are just walking away" from homes that have become a burden.

"It's not going to get any better without intervention," Pappano said.

Pappano cited a partnership with the Demolition Coalition and many letters of support from the local community as also influencing the Housing Authority's decision.

 "I think the application data, with the concentration of foreclosures, the list of tax sale properties, along with everyones' support at the county level, including the Demolition coalition, really helped," Pappano said.

Muncie also received some funding of this type to help revitalize a neighborhood.

The project guidelines call for a first phase of 18 months followed by a second phase where funds from the first are recycled. some guidlines are below.

Phase I: All funds must be obligated within 18 months of grant award (November 2010). Obligated means under contract, not necessarily complete. Our goal of course is to have the majority of the demolition complete and be obligated for the rehabilitation and new construction.

Phase II: As homes from Phase I are sold, revenue will be generated. The revenue will be used to acquire additional units for rehab or demolition and new construction. If any land banked properties are sold, those funds could be used to reimburse the City for maintenance and administration costs associated with the holding of the land banked properties and/or could be used to acquire additional properties. At this time, all funds that are not used as of November 2013, would be returned to IHCDA.

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