Among those to whom reports of “economic recovery” sting, count sections of Richmond, Oakland, and Contra Costa County, where the two-year-old housing crisis lingers in the form of faded for-sale signs and boarded-up windows. Those communities suffer from some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, but this week they got some consolation. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new round of grants to address blight and abandonment. In the Bay Area, Oakland was awarded just over $2 million, Contra Costa County $1.9 million, and Richmond $1.2 million.
Larry Bush of the regional HUD office points to parts of Oakland where houses unable to sell accelerate the decline of entire neighborhoods. “This money could be used to buy some of those homes and bring them up to decent condition,” he said, and then be made available for low- to moderate-income homebuyers who have gone through a homeowner counseling program. Funding for the so-called Neighborhood Stabilization Program is provided under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law this summer, and is intended to be implemented ASAP. Once HUD issues guidelines for the funding, municipalities must propose how they will spend it, and Bush says we could see the money before Christmas time.