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Efforts of GFPB, city starting to pay off – News – Pine Bluff Commercial

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The initiatives of the City of Pine Bluff and Go Forward Pine Bluff are paying off as the city is beginning to see the reaping of their harvest.

The initiatives of the City of Pine Bluff and Go Forward Pine Bluff are paying off as the city is beginning to see the reaping of their harvest.
Pine Bluff was often described in the media as a “war zone” and “the worst place to live in America” but through the support of local leaders and volunteers, the good about the community is outweighing the bad.
GFPB strategy for redeveloping, repurposing and revitalizing downtown Pine Bluff is transforming off the blue print into a visual delight.
According to a newsletter released by the organization, the Economic Development’s Pillar to establish The Generator (an innovation hub) and the Quality of Life’s Pillar Downtown Historical District initiative is looking promising for the future of the city.
“Although Streetscape has been in the works for several years, we finally see it become a reality,” said GFPB in their newsletter. “This project, as well as others by many organizations, is working towards making downtown the place to be.”
Funding for Streetscape comes from the Penny for Progress sales tax that was passed in 2011, as well as a $1M grant from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.
GFPB and the Community and Economic Development Department teamed together to secure a $350K Delta Regional Authority Grant for additional funding and $2M from the City of Pine Bluff. The Arkansas State Highway Commission awarded $500K for the project in 2015.
Over $200K has been allocated for the construction of the 601 Main Street Plaza with the 2017 5/8th cent sales tax through the Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency.
Dr. Ryan Watley, CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff, said last week that the Urban Renewal Agency was gearing up to remove blight from the community after efforts were stalled.
According to the newsletter, PBURA crews are on target to surpass all of last year’s demolitions by the end of the second quarter.
Watley has also proposed an updated First responder Incentive Program for 2020 that both the Chief of Police Kelvin Sergeant and Fire Chief Shauwn Howell, are in favor of.
A public private review committee established by Mayor Washington created a strategy to retain the quality and professionalism of the first responder force through effective recruiting, continuing education, and competitive salaries.
The first responder homebuyer assistance program would aid full time City of Pine Bluff uniform police and fire officers by making 0% interest loan up to $10,000 which could be used for any combination of down-payment and or interest reduction required by the lender along with additional cost associated with purchasing a home.
The funds can also be used for home improvement. New construction is also eligible. There is no limit to the price of the home that can be purchased as long as the home is within the City limits of Pine Bluff
First responders who are existing home owners are eligible for up to $5,000 (five thousand) in home repairs. Payment for home repairs will be subject to procurement laws and made directly to qualified licensed subcontractors.
According to the proposal, standard credit regulations would still apply to the housing incentive program. However, assistance would be available for non-automatic qualifiers through secondary market lenders and credit repair assistance.
Down payment, closing cost and or home repair loans will be structured in the form of a 0% interest five-year forgivable loan.
Public safety officers are required to serve as a uniform officer for five years for the loan to be forgiven. Voluntary resignation and/or termination before the five-year forgiveness period will result in repayment of the loan.
Wately said the intent of the program is to recruit first responders for the Pine Bluff Police and Fire Department so departments can fulfill their staffing needs.

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Developers plan 13 new homes in Muskegon Heights to help ‘people of color bring their community back’

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MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI – Two pastors from Indiana have a plan to build 13 new homes in the city of Muskegon Heights as part of an initiative to help “people of color bring their community back.”

The Rev. Rodney Lynch and the Rev. Willie Thompson, both of West Lafayette, Indiana, recently purchased 13 vacant lots from the city on which they plan to build single-family homes.

Thompson grew up in Muskegon Heights.

“He remembers when it was a thriving community — in the years he grew up there — and he sees it now,” Lynch told MLive. “We were talking one day, and he said this city is under new leadership, and because there’s new leadership, there’s new hope.”

Troy Bell became the city’s new manager at the beginning of this year. One of his early initiatives was a plan to formalize and add development requirements to the city’s tradition of selling city-owned vacant lots for $100 each.

Lynch and Thompson purchased 13 lots on Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, McIlwraith, Elwood and Superior streets.

Calling themselves Muskegon Heights Investors LLC, Lynch and Thompson will look for builders to construct “high quality” homes with sale prices of about $100,000 to $130,000, Lynch said.

Home buyers will be provided “wrap around services,” such as help preparing their credit for home purchase and education on how to properly maintain their properties, Lynch said.

“I’m more interested in the humanitarian part of this — helping quote, unquote minorities rebuild their own community (and) be a part of bringing their community back,” he said.

Under the city’s lot sale policy, lots are sold for $100 each and purchasers are required to pay for document and other fees, estimated at about $150 per lot. They also must pay three years’ worth of taxes, estimated at about $270 per lot.

Construction on the lots is to begin within two years of purchase, and owners must maintain the property, or it will revert to the city through a quick claim deed.

Requirements include planting grass and shrubs, removing dead trees and weeds and keeping structures in good repair.

The objectives of the lot-sales program are raising revenue, reducing crime and blight and encouraging development in the city.

Lynch said he visited Muskegon Heights twice and was dismayed by some of what he saw, but also encouraged by the “great opportunity for people of color to bring their community back.”

“When I first came up there, I was like ‘Wow, the city needs help.’ It’s depleted. The roads are bad, a lot of boarded-up houses,” Lynch said. “But I said, ‘Yeah, this is a great opportunity right here.’”

Bell said he has worked for several months with the Indiana developers as the city refined its process for approving lot sales.

“I appreciate their commitment to the community,” Bell said. ”I appreciate them trying to be part of the renaissance of this community.”

The “key to spurring economic development” in Muskegon Heights is improving the city’s housing stock which has an average age of 100 years, Bell said. New homes have not built in the city since 2014, and that was just three new homes, he said.

The city owns 350 vacant lots and the Muskegon County Land Bank owns another 450, Bell said.

While Muskegon Heights has been selling vacant lots for $100, the process was informal and didn’t require development of the lots, he said. That resulted in many of the lots being used to park vehicles, and often owners didn’t pay the property taxes and the land reverted to the city, Bell said.

“That’s why the city is barely making it by now — because it has no tax base,” Bell said.

He said he has encouraged builders to shoot for “high quality” homes and to include credit repair, first-time home buyer and homeowner education programs like the ones Lynch said his group is planning.

The next “phase” of the city’s plan to improve housing involves tackling renovations of boarded-up and vacant homes and better enforcement of building codes, Bell said.

The city of Muskegon recently embarked on an ambitious effort to improve its housing stock by encouraging developers to build single family homes. The $49.5 million plan to build 240 homes in the city over the next three years involves the use of Brownfield tax credits to help make the homes affordable.

Among those are 13 homes under construction on Webster Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets near the city’s downtown.

Also on MLive:

Muskegon police identify shooting victim, look for killer

Frauenthal Center’s $7 million preservation campaign looks to ‘the next 90 years’

Man rescued from Lake Michigan after being swept off breakwall

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Fund launched to support women business owners affected by COVID | News

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A fund has been launched to support female business owners affected by the continuing economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The partner plan-like facility called the Win-Win Partner Fund, has been designed by the Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean (WENC). It is targeted to the organisation’s member-base of 150 women business owners. 

Although declining to  provide disbursement data, WENC said entrepreneurs have already accessed loans from the facility to stock their businesses; invest in e-commerce opportunities and to bring their businesses in line with COVID-19 norms. Financing for business start-ups has also been disbursed.    

In a release WENC described the fund as a hybrid of the traditional partner plan. 

“Yes, members are required to pay a monthly ‘hand’ and yes, they will receive funds when it is their turn; however that’s perhaps where the similarity to the traditional partner ends,” the organisation said. 

“This atypical hybrid is designed to have built-in mechanisms to facilitate sustainability and scalability. This is because the organisation is well-aware that its members will need support long after the world waves its final good-bye to COVID,” it explained. 

Women more stressed by COVID

President, Ethnie Miller Simpson said the idea for the fund emerged from the frustrations women generally face. She argued that women have had to bear the brunt of the economic fallout from COVID-19 in Jamaica. 

“This developing trend has long-term implications for our community. We, therefore, need to ensure that we will have the capacity to support them beyond the crisis.” said Miller Simpson.

She said women tend to earn less, have lower amounts of savings and are disproportionately represented in the informal economy and service sectors, which have been hard-hit by the pandemic. 

“These facts when added to the certain knowledge that the majority of single-parent households are led by women and that within two-parent homes women are more likely to be burdened with unpaid care and domestic work, it is astonishing that these factors have not sufficiently informed state relief packages nor private sector loans” she .

Although operational, WENC acknowledged that it is working on strengthening its model.  

“To ensure its long-term viability, the architects of this pioneering plan are exploring alternative credit scores and credit repair facilities that are suited to women-led MSMEs (micro small and medium enterprises),” the organisation said. It noted that its working with the Asian Development Bank identify suitable integration models. 

WENC is also looking at integrating digital payment options for the facility and to develop an app for the fund.

Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us @onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.

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JVS and TCF Offering Education & Funding towards Credit Repair, Home Ownership • Oakland County Times

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JVS and TCF Offering Education & Funding towards Credit Repair, Home Ownership

JVS and TCF Offering Education & Funding towards Credit Repair, Home Ownership

(JVS, Oct. 29, 2020)

Southfield, MI- JVS Human Services, one of the largest human service agencies in metro Detroit, is announcing the HarMoney Program, a new financial initiative to help low- to moderate-income families in Oakland County get their foot on the home ownership ladder. Through the HarMoney Program, qualified families can receive up to $1000 down payment assistance on a home, or for repairing their financial credit to help them qualify for home ownership, after successful completion of a 12-week financial education course. Up to 40 qualified families will benefit from the initiative which will launch Monday, November 9 at 3 p.m. via Facebook Live. The program is made possible by a $50,000 grant from TCF Bank’s Community Impact Fund.

“Around 75 percent of the calls we receive into our financial coaching department is about home ownership, with one of the largest barriers being the inability to fund a down payment. Through HarMoney we now we can provide a little extra help, to push struggling families over the finishing line,” said Laltsha Cunningham, Financial Capability Supervisor at JVS Human Services. “We decided to call the program HarMoney, because so many in the population are not in harmony with their finances which is incredibly stressful, particularly now during this unprecedented time.”

JVS Human Services has identified that Oakland County has had a recent increase in households experiencing poverty. In 2019, census tracking showed that 8.2 percent of families in Oakland County were below the income poverty level and, now with the Covid-19 pandemic, these numbers will likely become greater. An increase in overall debt, lower credit scores and lack of savings impacts a family’s ability to qualify for either renting or leasing a property and is a major obstacle to home ownership. The aim of the HarMoney Program is help families gain the knowledge to manage their money more effectively, learn skills such as budgeting and credit repair and understand the path to home ownership. The HarMoney Program components include:

~12 weeks of interactive financial education workshops (1-2 hours per week)

~Eight individual financial coaching sessions

~Referrals to organizations that focus on income support and career development

~Development of a credit repair strategy

~Credit report pulls at the start, midway and conclusion of the program

~Down payment assistance of up to $1000 per family after successful program completion

“TCF is a purpose-driven company, passionate about building stronger individuals, businesses and communities. TCF’s Community Impact Fund supports local organizations because we know that together, we can do even more good in the communities where we live and serve,” said Laura Castone, Market Manager of Community Development. “TCF is proud to make this donation to JVS Human Services, which provides critical resources to local residents to help them take the steps towards home ownership.”

Potential applicants to the HarMoney Program must be low- to moderate-income based on HUD income limits and have a current credit score at or below 620. For more information applicants can email financialhelp@jvshumanservices.org, call 248.233.4299, or go to https://www.jvshumanservices.org/homebuyers.

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