Government, Nonprofits, and Real Estate

Fight to prevent home foreclosure comes to GR

State agency joins forces with city’s religious and political communities.

May 24, 2013
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The Michigan State Housing Development Authority launched a new partnership with the faith community in Grand Rapids last week to prevent home foreclosures.

Mary Townley, who directs MSHDA’s Home Ownership Division, announced the new effort called the Step Forward Michigan Partnership. When she unveiled the program she had a coalition of ministers and politicians by her side, including Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, State Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, and State Senator Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township.

Townley said the partnership is designed to enlist clergy, congregants and leaders of all religions in the battle against home foreclosure and make homeowners in jeopardy of losing their homes aware that free assistance is available through the program.

The Step Forward Michigan program offers economically strapped homeowners up to $30,000 to pay delinquent taxes, mortgage interest and fees, and condominium association dues. The assistance is targeted to those who’ve suffered the greatest from the bad economic conditions.

The program can help unemployed homeowners make mortgage payments and obtain a principal curtailment or loan modification from a lender. The effort can also assist homeowners who are in a severe financial crisis due to a medical emergency or an illness and even help with local property tax payments.

MSHDA is backing the program with a portion of the $498.6 million the state agency received from the U.S. Department of Treasury.

A March update from the Community Research Institute at Grand Valley State University revealed that 126 homes were foreclosed in the city during the fourth quarter of 2012, a drop of 37 percent from the previous quarter’s total of 173.

The institute also reported that 723 homes were foreclosed in the city for all of last year, a decrease of 34 percent from 2011 when 968 were foreclosed. Another 322 homes are in the redemption stage.

From 2004 through last year, 9,337 homes were foreclosed in Grand Rapids and 21,211 went through the process throughout Kent County. Countywide, there are 813 houses in the redemptive period.

Leading the faith-based portion of the MSHDA partnership are Rev. Emmett Harrison, pastor of Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church; the Very Rev. John Geaney, rector of the Cathedral of St. Andrew; and Rev. Jerry Bishop, founder and pastor of the Lifequest Urban Outreach Center.

Details on the Step Forward Michigan effort and its four programs are at stepforwardmichigan.org.

On another housing front, MSHDA recently announced that three local nonprofit developers were awarded community development grants worth more than $1.4 million.

Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids received $468,379 for its renovation and expansion of the Herkimer Building at 309 S. Division Ave. When finished, the historic structure will feature 55 one-bedroom apartments.

The Inner City Christian Federation was awarded $475,000 for its LaGrave Apartment project in Tapestry Square, which is located at 435 LaGrave Ave. SE. The work will develop 19 housing units and 3,200 square feet of commercial space.

LINC Community Revitalization received $500,000 for its Southtown Square Project at 413 Hall St. SE. The four-story building will have mixed-income housing units, ground-floor commercial space and 16 townhouse units in Madison Square.

“These funds were set aside by Gov. Rick Snyder and State Attorney General Bill Schuette for the purpose of meeting the affordable housing and downtown revitalization efforts in communities,” said Scott Woosley, MSHDA executive director, in a statement. “I believe the grants will provide vital resources to help the projects proceed.”

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