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Examiner
  • Federal grant continues to improve once-blighted neighborhoods

  • In the past year, the city of Independence has received national recognition for its participation in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, but work is still planned for the upcoming year.

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  • In the past year, the city of Independence has received national recognition for its participation in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, but work is still planned for the upcoming year.
    “One Block at a Time,” as it is known in Independence, is the concentration of NSP funding to attract reinvestment and families to western Independence, Christina Leakey, Community Development programs supervisor, said at Monday night’s City Council study session.
    In addition to the regional U.S. Housing and Urban Development office and the National League of Cities recognizing Independence’s efforts, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan also visited several completed NSP properties in October 2011.
    “Realizing that the (Neighborhood Stabilization Program) was a unique opportunity and perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime-of-neighborhoods opportunity for investment, the community has sought from the beginning to be focused and strategic in allocating these funds to areas of greatest need,” Leakey said.
    Norledge Place is the “poster child” for “One Block at a Time,” Leakey said, thanks to partnerships with agencies like the NorthWest Communities Development Corporation and others. The $2.2 million public-private investment included the rehabilitation and infill construction of 10 single-family houses, as well as the installation of new public infrastructure.
    As the Norledge Place project nears completion of its first phase, only two homes are left for sale, Leakey said.
    This past fiscal year, the Norledge Place accomplishments included the construction of three rehabilitated and three new homes; the sale of five new homes and one rehabilitated single-family home to eligible buyers; the acquisition of six Sugar Creek CDC properties; and the demolition of nine blighted structures in the surrounding area.
    “We’ve seen tremendous success that’s demonstrated by increased property values, the return of families to the area and spurred reinvestment by neighboring property owners who are inspired to participate in the stabilization effort,” Leakey said.
    Those moving to the area, Leakey said, include young singles and professionals; newly wed couples investing in their starter homes; middle-aged empty nesters; and a retired family, whose average age is 72, returning to the area from out of state.
    Also in the NSP, the Overton redevelopment (just south of U.S. 24) this past year included the construction of two houses, one of which sold; the rehabilitation of seven apartment units, all of which are occupied; the rehabilitation of one homeowner project; and the start of acquiring additional abandoned property.
    The Neighborhood Stabilization Program also has accomplished scattered-site activities in eligible census tracts across Independence, including the acquisition of two foreclosed/abandoned properties in the Harry S Truman National Historic Landmark District.
    Plans for 2013 include the Mount Washington senior housing project and the continued concentration investment in the Overton neighborhood. District 4 Council Member Eileen Weir asked if opportunities would be available to expand the NSP efforts into the southwestern and southeastern quadrants of Independence.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It’s unclear at this time whether Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding will be continued at the federal level,” Leakey said, adding that the third round of grant funding continues through March 2014. “One of the opportunities that we have as we develop properties and sell those, the proceeds come back to the city as program income, and we are allowed to utilize that program income toward eligible NSP activities.
    “We have not gotten guidance or a final decision on whether or not that NSP program income can be utilized beyond the areas of greatest need once the program expires, but we do know we’ll be able to continue to retain that and use that at the local level. ”
     
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