Clovis News

Clovis teams with Firebaugh, Parlier for cash

The city of Clovis wanted to get a share of state money to repair foreclosed homes, but there was a hitch: the city didn't have enough foreclosures.

So Clovis opted to team up with Parlier and Firebaugh, both of which also had too-few foreclosures to qualify for $1 million in state assistance money, the minimum amount set by the state for funding.

Their teamwork will enable them to submit a funding request to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for money to repair foreclosed homes and to build new low- and moderate-income housing.

It's a strategy that's working for cities and counties across the central San Joaquin Valley. Communities in Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties, along with the cities of Madera and Chowchilla, also have joined forces.

"This is the only way the smaller communities can apply," said Laurie Mercer, Tulare County's redevelopment manager, whose department is applying for about $2 million on behalf of Tulare, Porterville, Lindsay, Dinuba and Farmersville.

Funding was determined in part by each community's foreclosure rate, said Chris Westlake, a deputy director with the state Department of Housing and Community Development in Sacramento.

Last year, the federal government gave larger communities $2 million or more under its "neighborhood stabilization" program. The cities of Visalia and Fresno and Fresno County qualified for the money, but smaller communities didn't.

When the state took the program over from the federal government it set $1 million in funding as the minimum level, because anything less reduces the effect on addressing foreclosure problems, Westlake said. And, the state suggested local governments join together and have one agency as the lead.

"We didn't want to exclude those communities from working jointly, which is why we left the opportunity open to them to apply as a region," he said.

Kings County officials also saw an opportunity for a partnership. The county would have missed out on an extra $350,000 if not for a partnership with Hanford, Lemoore, and Corcoran, said Deb West, deputy county administrative officer. Kings County is seeking a $1,456,000 allocation, she said.

"There are neighborhoods where you have foreclosures going on and a number of different problems can arise," West said.

"We have areas with ... homes that are being deserted because of foreclosures and we don't want to have the whole neighborhood suffer for it."

The money, she said, will be used to fix those homes and prepare them for sale.

Clovis joined Parlier and Firebaugh after reviewing state rules and realizing the cities can receive $1.1 million.

Clovis will submit the application on behalf of the three cities, said Tina Sumner, Clovis Community and Economic Development director.

Because Clovis has the staff expertise -- and didn't want to lose a chance at the money -- the city agreed to take the lead.

Many of Fresno County's cities participated with Fresno County in a housing program that will split $7 million.

Clovis and Firebaugh have chosen not to participate in the county's joint venture but instead seek such state grants on their own.

Madera and Chowchilla will get about $1.2 million to acquire and renovate foreclosed properties, said Jorge Rojas, Madera's program manager for grants.

He said the money can be used in older parts of the city as well as some newer tracts hard hit by foreclosures.

"If it hadn't been for the housing crisis these homes would not be vacant," he said.

"I believe investors are trying to buy them, but there are roadblocks in finding out who owns the properties and finding the banks."