Create safe, model neighborhoods and increase the amount of quality, affordable housing in Phillips County
Create safe, model neighborhoods and increase the amount of quality, affordable housing in Phillips County by: 1) building local capacity for restoring and maintaining housing, 2) improving access to funding and housing incentives, and 3) strengthening ties between community stakeholders and local, state, and federal agencies.
- Strategic Goal One
Promote the preservation of existing housing in Phillips County by implementing a comprehensive housing educational initiative related to rehabilitation, code, design, and safety issues.
- Collaborate with Southern Good Faith Fund in providing pre- and post- homeownership, renters’ counseling, and financial skills education.
- Partner with local hardware stores, contractors, and non-profits to create a do-it-yourself workshop for homeowners to learn different ways of protecting their investments through maintenance and repairs, energy saving tips, and home safety tips.
- Provide advanced training opportunities through Phillips Community College or other workforce training programs to increase the skill and knowledge of local contractors. Recruit master craftsman to teach courses in specific areas of knowledge, including historic rehabilitation.
Strategic Goal Two Develop a rehabilitation funding program for existing homes to alleviate deficiencies in the supply of safe, accessible, and affordable housing for the citizens of Phillip County.
- Research and apply for Act 661 funds (Housing Trust Fund) which can be used for rehabilitation, land acquisition, transitional housing, and technical assistance.
- Partner with state and federal programs to increase participation in weatherization and energy conservation programs to make homes more energy efficient. Specifically, pursue funding through the State Energy Program, administered locally by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, as well as the Weatherization Assistance Program.
- Identify and partner with a non-profit organization focused exclusively on rehabilitating dilapidated housing in Phillips County. Work through this partner to leverage a variety of state and federal programs, including HUD and USDA programs, to fund housing rehabilitation.
- Strategic Goal Three Facilitate the development of downtown living to enhance historic features of the community and create a more vibrant downtown.
- Develop and promote a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to offer affordable financing for the development of downtown loft apartments and for the preservation of historic houses in Helena.
- Modify zoning ordinances to encourage the development of units above commercial downtown buildings.
- Collaborate with the Tourism, Recreation, and Quality of Life (TRQ) Goal Team to provide social amenities to support downtown living (i.e., restaurants, entertainment, and retail).
- Strategic Goal Number Four Promote and facilitate new housing construction to address current and projected demand.
- Review the results of the 2004 housing market study and evaluate the need for additional housing market research.
- Work with housing developers to construct a variety of retirement housing in Phillips County.
- Work with housing developers to construct quality single- and multi-family housing units in Phillips County, including infill housing to replace dilapidated housing that has been demolished.
- Work with community branding efforts to broadly market new or restored housing to potential residents.
- Strategic Goal Five
In cooperation with other housing agencies, assist families in transitioning from public housing to private market housing (homeownership or rental housing).
- Make budget and credit counseling, homeownership and rental counseling, and home owner’s education classes widely available to all new and aspiring home owners in Phillips County.
- Partner with absentee homeowners who are willing to donate property for housing reuse.
- Work with a qualified non-profit to research and evaluate the potential for utilizing USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Loan program, which exchanges the “sweat equity” of the owner-builder for subsidized loans with no down payment.
- Partner with the city and county government to access Community Development Block Grants and HUD’s HOME funds to expand and preserve the supply of quality affordable housing in the community.
- Strategic Goal Six Create comprehensive neighborhood improvement programs for communities in Phillips County. Include an organized neighborhood watch and alert program that focuses on general neighborhood conditions and safety issues, with an emphasis on crime reduction.
- Pursue implementation of the US Department of Justice’s Weed and Seed program, a comprehensive, community-based approach to law enforcement, crime prevention, and community revitalization. Employ additional police officers to patrol communities in Phillips County and provide additional training for officers, in keeping with the recommendations of the Weed and Seed program.
- Evaluate existing neighborhood organizations. Work through churches and other neighborhood-based bodies to create new neighborhood associations and organizations where necessary, ensuring that no major neighborhoods in Phillips County are excluded. These groups will help to form distinct neighborhood identities, address identified neighborhood problems, and facilitate neighborhood events, cleanups, improvements, and safety efforts.
- Develop specific goals and objectives for neighborhood safety programs, as well as individualized plans for improving the quality of neighborhoods. Facilitate regular meetings between the leadership of various neighborhood associates to allow for the sharing of best practices and other resources.
- Distribute information to residents regarding strategies to improve home and neighborhood safety and to discourage criminal activity. Facilitate the use of internet-based communications to provide up-to-date information about neighborhood crime.
- Strategic Goal Number Seven Improve the quality of life for families living in public housing and Section 8 housing by connecting residents to resources and programs.
- Working through local public housing authorities, conduct a survey of public housing residents to assess awareness of and access to programs and resources currently available to low-income families. Coordinate these efforts with the “Benefits Bank” concept discussed in Health Care Goal 3, Action Step A.
- Through a marketing campaign targeted at residents of public housing, increase access to Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) and other savings programs, education and career training, medical care, and other forms of assistance such as the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and utility assistance. Leverage funding sources and programs, including HUD and USDA programs, to address needs of low-income residents.
Strengths and Opportunities
- Numerous historic homes
- Opportunity to serve as retirement community for influx of retiring boomers over coming decade
- New loft apartments in downtown Helena
- Low cost of housing
- Undeveloped land
- Low interest loan fund for historic housing repairs
- Opportunities for weatherization incentives or “green” building incentives
Weaknesses and Threats
- Historic housing stock is deteriorating
- Limited number of skilled contractors
- Racial history
- Need for additional home buyer education
- Neighborhood crime
- Lack of strong neighborhood organizations and identities
- Poor neighborhood infrastructure in many parts of Phillips County(sidewalks, parks, lighting, etc.)
- High poverty rates limit the number of home buyers