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Affordable housing and community development

By Staff
Dec. 17, 2000
While police and fire officials chase an apparent arsonist intent on his own style of community redevelopment, other saner, safer approaches to affordable housing are being evaluated. Safer, perhaps, but controversial too in the sense that no constructive change ever comes without creative leadership.
The subject last week turned to the role affordable housing should place if Meridian is to grow, prosper and expand its industrial and economic base. The truth is, as many recent transferees to Meridian have found, the cost of suitable housing is as high if not higher than in larger cities in Mississippi. Housing in this city is no bargain.
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So the call for more affordable housing in Meridian is right on target under the leadership of Fannie Mae, the federal partner in many housing finance programs.
It is important for the dialogue to begin. Our community must understand the high cost of housing is a real deterrent to economic development. A mix of housing ideally would run the gamut, from expensive downtown condominiums to lower-cost affordable housing also in the downtown area.
Officials told U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., he could help by trying to cut away government red tape that wraps most housing programs in bureaucratic knots. The city's flood plain zoning may also need another look so that some areas can be developed for housing.
We agree with Pickering's assessment there is no stronger investment people in a community can make than in home ownership. As he said, home ownership remains a fundamental part of the American dream.
Health hazard
And, on a related topic, it's time for city and county officials to immediately launch an effort to identify and inventory substandard and condemned housing, and to notify such property owners the houses will be torn down unless rehabilitated.
The unsightly mess created in too many neighborhoods by abandoned, vacant, dilapidated and decaying houses is a dangerous threat to public health and a likely target for arson or other mischief.

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