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Meridian's public housing gets $17.3 million boost

By Staff
HOUSING IMPROVEMENTS Joe Norwood, left, president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, Ron Turner Sr., deputy director of the Meridian Housing Authority and Derwin Jackson, executive director of the Meridian Housing Authority, detail plans for developing new public housing units at a press conference Wednesday. The development, funded in part by a $17.3 million federal grant, will also include a new community building and space for small businesses. Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Buddy Bynum / editor and Georgia Frye / staff writer
June 3, 2004
Three of Meridian's antiquated public housing communities would begin to get a completely new look with a $17.3 million federal boost announced Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering.
The housing grant, which must be matched dollar for dollar by other federal, local, state or private assets, could leverage a total package of $52.5 million for redevelopment at Victory Village, Frank Berry Courts and J.T. Davis Courts, Pickering said from his Washington office.
The grant the only one awarded in Mississippi this year under the Department of Housing and Urban Development's HOPE VI program could help give public housing residents an opportunity to affordably rent or, in some cases, eventually own their homes.
The 3rd District congressman said in a telephone interview that he received notice of the grant's approval from HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson. HUD is the federal agency that oversees the nation's affordable housing programs and provides housing assistance for low-income persons.
Under Jackson, HUD has worked to expand homeownership opportunities to more Americans, particularly minority and low-income families, through innovative budget initiatives and partnerships with community-based housing providers.
The Meridian project, to be accomplished in four phases, will create 242 modern mixed-income rental and ownership units, and also includes demolishing dilapidated and unused units. Officials said the Meridian Housing Authority has been pursuing the funding for seven years in its efforts to modernize and upgrade public housing in the city.
Allan Stewart, president of BankPlus in Meridian and chairman of the Meridian Housing Authority board of directors, said the funds can be put to good use.
Derwin Jackson, executive director of the Meridian Housing Authority, was praised for his tenacious pursuit of the money through HUD's Hope VI program.
Not all of the matching assets will be in cash, he said. The city of Meridian and Lauderdale County have made a commitment to provide infrastructure improvements, such as street and sewer improvements, the value of which will be calculated as part of the match.
Jackson said space will be allocated in the new developments for commercial properties.
Also attending the press conference was Joe Norwood, president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors. U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott and Gov. Haley Barbour were also credited with helping secure the HUD grant.
WHAT THE GRANT BUYS
A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant announced Wednesday could lead to the development of the following in Meridian, according to U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering:
113 public housing units
74 affordable rental units
15 market rate rental units
40 home ownership units

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