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Local Editorials

Effective use of grant money helps residents

Sterling city leaders deserve credit for winning a federal housing grant and using it effectively. Many neighborhoods, and lives, have been improved. Well done.

Three years ago, the city of Sterling received word that it and two partner cities, Rock Island and Moline, would receive an $18.5 million federal grant to help deal with foreclosed homes.

Sterling’s share of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant was nearly $2.8 million.

City officials hoped to be able to buy, rehab or rebuild, and sell 17 foreclosed homes to people with low or moderate incomes.

The idea was to “stabilize” city neighborhoods by turning problem homes into nice yet affordable places for families to live.

Grant regulations required that the last of the money be spent by Feb. 11, 2013.

So, 3 years later, how have things gone?

Simply marvelous, according to Sterling Mayor Skip Lee.

City council members heard a report this week from Mike Wolber, program coordinator. The news was positive, indeed.

The city has bought 19 foreclosed homes – two more than it initially predicted.

Seven houses were rehabilitated.

Eight were demolished, with new homes built on the lots.

Three were demolished, and wrecking crews have been authorized to start on the fourth.

Ten of the houses have been sold. A closing on the 11th is scheduled soon. Offers have been made on two of the remaining four houses in the city’s inventory.

Some of the grant money was used for stipends to help income-eligible buyers lessen their mortgage payments.

The money from the sales – $575,893 – will be used to buy and rehab more foreclosed houses.

“The properties have been marvelous additions to the community,” Mayor Lee said this week.

Wolber, in a November interview, said that neighborhoods affected by the program have seen a general overall improvement. Adjacent homeowners, observing what the city has done, are doing more to maintain their properties.

“That is the whole purpose of the program,” he said.

The grant came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the federal stimulus program. The initial money has all been spent, but the grant’s ripple effects will be felt well into the future.

We congratulate city leaders for winning the grant, administering it effectively, creating a lasting benefit in certain neighborhoods, and helping local residents improve their lives.

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