The Rome Community Development Committee signed off Tuesday on a $425,407 federal block grant budget for 2020.

Most of the funds are earmarked for continuing sidewalk improvements across the city and a housing rehabilitation program for low-income, owner-occupied homes.

Community Development Director Bekki Fox said the housing program has resulted in more than $1 million in upgrades to 222 homes since 2007.

“We never have a lack of people who need this program,” she said.

Plans are in the works to expand an affordable housing partnership with the South Rome Redevelopment Corp. to North Rome and possibly West Rome as well.

The Community Housing Improvement Program trust fund — which allows the city to build and sell new homes at cost — now has $774,000 in the account.

Two houses will be built on Peachtree Street and one on Pennington Avenue in South Rome. One also is planned for Pine Street in North Rome.

“This will be the first CHIP home built outside of South Rome since the program started in the ’90s,” Fox said.

Her staff is reviewing three floor plans for the one offering “the most bang for the buck,” she said, given the rise in construction costs.

The city tries to keep the homes under $100,000. City Commissioner Mark Cochran, who chairs the committee, asked if that hurts home prices in the neighborhoods. Fox said that, given the target buyers, she did not think it does.

The Rome-Floyd County Land Bank Authority also agreed earlier this month to sell seven more parcels to new owners.

Since the LBA was revived in 2017, it has restored property worth more than $1.4 million to the tax rolls.

Through the end of December, the authority had sold 26 lots with structures and 73 vacant parcels.

Virtually all of the properties the LBA deals with fell to the county by default after they failed to sell at a foreclosure auction.

Fox also expressed some concern for a city-managed economic development revolving loan program for small businesses, which currently has approximately $410,000 available.

She said the Georgia Department of Community Affairs may force the city to give back some of the money because the state funds come with so many strings attached that local entrepreneurs are finding other ways to generate capital.

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