NAMPA, IDAHO - “It’s a government program that works.” Those words, quoted recently in The Idaho Press Tribune, may be the sweetest taxpayers can ever hear. They were spoken not by a government bureaucrat, but by Greg Bullock, a real estate agent in Nampa, a city of almost 82,000 in southwest Idaho’s Treasure Valley.
He was talking about the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, first launched during the administration of President George W. Bush and continued – and expanded – by President Barack Obama. Since 2008 it has brought $1.6 million in additional HUD resources into Nampa.
“In our community there is at least one foreclosure per block,” explained City community development manager Jennifer Yost, and already hard-hit Canyon County “continues to see more foreclosures, not only from predatory lending practices and adjustable rate mortgages, but from the economic downturn.”
Empty, foreclosed homes don’t add a whole lot of “curb appeal” to most neighborhoods. Lawns go unmowed, windows get broken, repairs aren’t made and the value of the house begins to fall. So too does the value of houses next door, down the street and around the corner. A once-vibrant neighborhood becomes forlorn; well-kept starts to fray around the edges.
Which is where Nampa’s NSP comes in, transforming, it says, foreclosed homes into community assets. In collaboration with Mercy Housing Northwest and the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, the city uses NSP funds to purchase abandoned or foreclosed homes which have begun to work their misery on neighborhoods. They then hire construction crews to rehab the houses and, ultimately, sell to families with incomes of 120 percent or less of the area’s median income, about $74,000 for a family of four in Nampa.
To date, Nampa has acquired and re-sold 24 homes with five more under development. Beyond helping these families, said Nampa Mayor Tome Dale, “into homes at a price they can afford,” that’s just the beginning of what NSP is doing for Nampa. It has “created jobs,” Yost noted, “fed the families of those employed for the rehabilitation and improved the appeal of the neighborhood and community pride.” And, added real estate broker Bullock, “it has’s been very nice to see money flowing again after a dead three or four years.”
What’s working in Nampa is working just as successfully across the rest of Idaho. In fact, reports the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, NSP funds have been used to acquire and rehab 232 homes across the state, with 90 percent sold, to date, to homebuyers.
It’s also working in the other 49 states, so much so that NSP’s successes has been used as the basis of the $15 billion Rebuild America program proposed under President Obama’s Jobs Bill that would put some 190,000 Americans in the hard-hit construction industry back to work rehabbing and reselling another 150,000 homes.
Like NSP, Rebuild America isn’t just about giving American families a chance to own a piece of the America dream or getting the unemployed back to work. It’s also about revitalizing communities large and small. After all, compare communities that have made use of NSP funds to those that have not and you find that NSP communities are more likely to experience better increases in home prices and decreases in vacancy rates.
HUD Secretary Donovan noted the same on a recent visit to an NSP neighborhood in Independence, Missouri. “Instead of watching home prices fall by $5,000 to $10,000 simply because they live on a block with a foreclosure sign, home prices in the neighborhood are going up – selling for as much as 35 percent more.”
No wonder NSP is described as a “government program that works.”
# # #