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Cities may unite to pursue funding

Rock Falls has own program

STERLING – Area towns are looking to combine forces to acquire and improve abandoned properties.

At a joint meeting Tuesday, the Sterling, Morrison and Fulton city councils will consider joining with the Rock Island Economic Growth Corp. to seek money for housing as part of the Northwestern Illinois Housing Coalition. Rock Island, Moline and East Moline also are expected to take part.

“This is an attempt to bring dollars to the region,” said Brian Hollenback, president of the Rock Island group. “We’re mobilizing and being prepared.”

Sterling already has been working with Rock Island and Moline as part of a neighborhood stabilization program. In 2010, Moline, Rock Island and Sterling got $18.5 million in federal stimulus funds to demolish and removate houses.

The city of Sterling has been buying foreclosed homes and improving them, or tearing them down and rebuilding, as part of the program. The homes are sold to qualifying low- and moderate-income buyers, with incentives such as help with down payments.

Now, the coalition is expanding to seek funds from the state attorney general’s mortgage foreclosure settlement. Officials say they have no idea whether they will be able to get that money, but need to have a group in place to seek funds.

The money would be used not only to acquire and improve vacant and abandoned properties, but also to develop businesses on vacant property and provide housing counseling to families, according to a proposed agreement.

Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard said the partnership had worked well.

“We feel it increases the odds of getting more funding if we are a regional group, and we can access the expertise of [Rock Island Economic Growth Corp.],” he said.

Morrison City Administrator Jim Wise said he would recommend the Morrison council approve the agreement.

“This will open our door to participate in regional opportunities, particularly those coming out of the Quad Cities area,” he said.

Rock Falls won’t be a part of the coalition, which Hollenback said was the city’s decision. The city has its own housing program, City Administrator Robbin Blackert said.

From 2006 to 2012, Rock Falls received $1.3 million from the Illinois Housing Development Authority to rehabilitate single-family, owner-occupied homes and small rental properties. This money was used for 27 single-family homes and 20 rental properties, according to the city.

For July 2012 to June 2014, Rock Falls has been awarded $336,000 to complete rehabilitation of eight single-family homes.

“This has been a really good program for Rock Falls,” Blackert said. “We are happy that the rest of the county is doing the same thing that we have been doing since 2006.”

To attend

The Sterling, Morrison and Fulton city councils will have a joint meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the community room at Odell Public Library, 307 S. Madison St. in Morrison.

The councils plan to vote on an agreement to form a coalition to seek money for improving housinAg.

For more information, call Sterling City Hall at 815-632-6621, Morrison City Hall at 815-772-7657, or Fulton City Hall at 815-589-2616.


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