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Housing and Urban Development Stimulus Program Fixes Up Houses

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Groups like the Muskogee Housing Authority uses stimulus dollars to purchase foreclosed homes. Groups like the Muskogee Housing Authority uses stimulus dollars to purchase foreclosed homes.
Foreclosed homes are bought "as is" then fixed up for low-income families. Foreclosed homes are bought "as is" then fixed up for low-income families.
Stimulus dollars have also paid for the construction of apartment complexes. Stimulus dollars have also paid for the construction of apartment complexes.

By Jennifer Loren, Oklahoma Impact Team

UNDATED -- One of the biggest complaints with President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package is not enough money going toward infrastructure projects. Many people say they want to see more brick and mortar construction-type projects.

Almost 10 months after the stimulus became law, money for housing and urban development projects in Oklahoma is beginning to change hands. There are many people putting those federal dollars to work in some of the state's neediest areas, and the Oklahoma Impact Team spoke with three of those developers.

JD Foster is the director of the Muskogee Housing Authority. He's responsible for spending $2.15 million in stimulus.

"We're very happy to be part of the program and look forward to getting started," said Foster.

He and his crew are buying foreclosed homes. They come with a low price tag and a low standard of living. One home the group toured was listed at $36,900. They told the realtor they'd likely make an offer on it.

The crew pointed out problems inside the house, but they said the home was structurally sound and something the Muskogee Housing Authority could work with. They have enough money to buy at least 15 foreclosed homes and fix them up. Then low-income families move in and pay low rent.

"It means that we can provide affordable housing for another 17 or 18 families," Foster said.

Dennis Shockley, the Director of the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, is also responsible for spending stimulus funds. He will spend almost $80 million in stimulus on affordable housing.

"$80 million is a lot of money," said Shockley.

The Village at Oakwood apartment complex in south Oklahoma City is nearly complete because his agency stepped in with funding where investors had dropped out. Twenty-six Oklahoma projects like it were rescued by the stimulus.

"Almost every one of these apartment developments would be dead in the water," said Shockley.

Reuben Gant, the Director of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce in Tulsa, is responsible for spending about half a million stimulus dollars.

"This is a high priority project, especially for north Tulsa," said Gant.

The Greenwood Chamber is behind the North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative, an upcoming development on an empty lot on North Peoria in Tulsa. It's a project has been difficult to get off the ground, Gant said, because of a stigma associated with this area.

"You know it's just a misperception that we need to attempt to overcome, and it's a risk in the eyes of a lot of people," said Gant.

The $450,000 in stimulus funding will provide the final piece of funding to build a shopping center there, spurring economic development in a place where it's virtually non-existent.

"So this is really an effort of building a community from within and creating entrepreneurial opportunities for qualified residents of the community," said Gant.

While all three project managers say the stimulus money has come with a lot of paperwork and strings attached, they say they are glad to have the money. All three say their projects will stimulate the economy by creating construction jobs.

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