Assistant City Manager Ken Howard presented information about a new state housing program to the Hinesville City Council during its Aug. 7 meeting. He said the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing program would help communities create and implement plans to meet their housing and revitalization needs.
“This (program) is the Department of Community Affairs, Georgia Municipal Association and University of Georgia partnering to help communities develop their housing plans,” Howard said, explaining there is an application process in which the state determines if a community is “worthy” of its designation as a GICH community. “We’ve talked about housing issues in the community for some time now. … This is an opportunity for the city of Hinesville and other communities within the county to really come together.”
Howard told the Courier his Georgia Initiative for Community Housing presentation was a result of concerns expressed by Hinesville leaders about housing needs during their recent planning workshop.
Although each community has a variety of substandard-housing needs, he said they all have some things in common, which can be addressed through the GICH program. He said it would allow Hinesville and other communities to get funds and receive what he called “preference points” from Department of Community Affairs for tax credits, whic are hard to get.
“We have three applications pending right now for tax-credit projects within the city of Hinesville,” he said. “In fact, one of those projects is going on now on Memorial Drive — Renaissance Place — for our senior citizens.”
According to Howard’s presentation, GICH is a three-year program that provides communities with technical assistance, training for community-housing team members, facilitation and mentoring. The assistant city manager sees mentoring as one of Hinesville’s strengths.
“Hinesville already has in place some things we would be sharing with other communities in the county,” he said. “When they talk about mentoring with this program, well, we anticipate mentoring some of our smaller communities. We already have an urban-development plan. We already have development projects like the Azalea Street project. We continue to utilize our entitlement funds to address the needs of housing in our community.
“So we are a little ahead of some of the communities in our county. Therefore, this is a unique opportunity for us to assist but also to glean from other communities. There are communities throughout the state that Hinesville can learn from that have already gone through this program.”
He said Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Director Jeff Ricketson and LCPC planner Milissa Jones are “working diligently,” presenting the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing program to other Liberty County communities. A joint resolution that would be signed by the leaders of each municipality will be a part of the city’s application, which must be submitted by Sept. 5. He said that resolution includes a commitment to fund each community’s representatives to GICH retreats and workshops.
Howard hopes to receive a reply from the state in October, which could involve Georgia Initiative for Community Housing review-board personnel visiting this community. A decision would be made in November, he said. If this community is accepted, community representatives would go to the first GICH retreat in February 2015.
Community representatives would receive information from experts at these retreats on code enforcement, urban redevelopment, housing assessments, land-bank authorities, heir property, modular housing, fair housing, grants for rehabilitation and tax-credit properties.
Howard said he feels confident the community’s application could be approved by the state because it’s something they haven’t considered before — an entire community applying as one.
“We have a plan,” he said. “Our mayors and community leaders are committed. They are showing great leadership. We all want to get to this point together.”