Foreclosures in Stark County have been fueled by resetting ARM loans, predatory lending, and unemployment. But county officials now believe that the foreclosures that have beleaguered the county for several years have peaked, though damage remains. The county’s mix of urban and rural areas has experienced business closures and an attendant decrease in available jobs, and Canton, the largest city in the county, has the highest percentage of families living in poverty in the state. Officials are now focusing on repair.
Stark County is home to three entitlement cities—Canton, Alliance, and Massillon—which receive Community Development Block Grant funds directly from HUD rather than through an intermediary. The Stark County Redevelopment Authority is located in downtown Canton in an area that has benefited from recent public infrastructure improvements, such as new sidewalks and outdoor public spaces to accommodate events. In developing its NSP plan, the Redevelopment Authority focused on the areas adjacent to the entitlement cities. The plan includes a proposed project for all eligible uses of NSP and was girded by an assumption that nonprofit community partners would have an appetite for participating.
HUD responded to Stark County’s multi-faceted plan by awarding the county more than $4 million in NSP I funds, double its usual CDBG allocation. Because foreclosures are dispersed throughout the county, officials had difficulty targeting specific areas for NSP funds. Some of the county’s inner-ring suburbs were ultimately deemed areas of greatest need, with high foreclosures, abandonment, and blight. Because rehab is costly, the County Redevelopment Authority’s NSP plan includes projects involving new construction of housing.
Implementing NSP, with a larger-than-expected award but short time frame, has stretched the County Redevelopment Authority staff thin. Additionally, community partners, private contractors, and nonprofit developers have not had as much of an appetite to take on NSP-funded projects as the Redevelopment Authority had hoped. It speculates that the private sector perceives the program as involving a lot of red tape.
County Redevelopment Authority officials have tried to model its use of NSP funds after the HOME program to meet NSP’s affordable housing requirements, and they suggest that the HOME program budget should have been increased for neighborhood stabilization purposes in favor of creating a new program.
Stark County Regional Planning Commission