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Sterling acquires site to fulfill grant requirement

STERLING – The city acquired the deed to the first property it secured for demolition almost 5 years ago through its Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The property is now a vacant half-block lot at 608-620 E. Third St., across from the Manahan Home. One small commercial building and eight residential units were razed. The apartments were foreclosed on in November 2009, and in June 2010, the City Council voted to tear them down.

The deed was transferred Monday during a meeting of the Sterling Industrial Development Commission. A grant requirement made the property transfer necessary, said Mike Wolber, the city’s former building and zoning coordinator who leads the program.

“We had an opportunity to secure this property before we received the grant money,” Wolber said. “SIDC bought it for $1,000, and it became the program’s first demolition project.”

The problem was that the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the grant’s administrator, didn’t recognize SIDC as a city entity within the parameters of the grant requirements.

“HUD just needs to see that it’s owned by the city of Sterling,” Wolber said.

The city became involved in the housing program in 2010, receiving nearly $2.8 million from a federal grant. The money is used to buy and rehab foreclosed or abandoned properties, which are then sold to low- and moderate-income families.

In the program’s first phase, the city bought 17 foreclosed homes, and the second phase called for the purchase of eight homes to be demolished and rebuilt.

Thus far, 16 of the homes have been sold.

The cost of rehabbing or rebuilding the homes is much higher than the sale price, and the city is required to sell the properties within 85 percent of market value.

“We just take whatever we can recoup with the sale of the houses,” Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard said.

The program objective of revitalizing at-risk neighborhoods is being met, Shumard says.

“People living in these neighborhoods really appreciate what’s being done,” he said. “It’s also helped the council refocus its efforts on demolitions and other housing issues.”

Under the terms of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, buyers must have a household income of not more than 120 percent of the area’s median income, which in Whiteside County is $56,000 for a family of four.

Assistance with down payments of up to $30,000 is available.

Buyers can’t currently be homeowners. They need not be first-time homebuyers or residents of Sterling to apply.

Applicants must complete an 8-hour Department of Housing and Urban Development counseling and training session.

For applications and more information, call the city’s Code Enforcement office at 815-632-6624.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program

Original award: $2,779,859

Program income from sales: $816,033

Total funds available: $3,595,892

Total spent to date: $3,595,892

Grant balance: $430,566

*Information current as of Dec. 31, 2013

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