Nov. 10 2008 12:00 AM

$6 million could come Lansing's way to deal with housing mess.

The federal government is offering Lansing $6 million to help us deal with our piece of the dead housing market. But, unfortunately, the problem is so big, not even $6 million is enough.

“This is just scratching the surface of a very large problem,” Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said.

But that doesn’t mean the city isn’t going to try.

The mayor, several community groups and Bob Johnson, director of the Department of Planning and Neighborhood Development, revealed plans for the money at a Monday morning press conference at City Hall. The City Council and the federal government will have to sign off on the plan before city would actually get the $6 million.

The city became eligible for the funds under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, an initiative created as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 to address foreclosures and declining property values.

Last month the mayor appointed members of the community to serve on a task force charged with designing a targeted plan to use the funds in the most effective manner.

Johnson said the money would fund several activities, including developing permanent supportive housing for low-to-moderate-income residents, creating a neighborhood empowerment center in the Comstock Park area, demolishing blighted homes and purchasing and rehabbing foreclosed homes.

What will the money bring to Lansing residents first? Bernero said formerly vacant houses would be rehabbed instead of becoming targets for copper theft and crime.

City officials are seeking comment on the proposed plan and will hold public neighborhood forums on Nov. 17 and Nov. 18. The proposed plan is posted on the city Web site,

Johnson lauded the mayor for being a step ahead in addressing Lansing's burgeoning foreclosure and housing crunch, saying, “When the feds came down with the money, we were ready.”

Johnson’s department has been crunching data to determine which neighborhoods are at highest risk of foreclosure, have the highest concentration of foreclosed homes and the highest amount of sub-prime mortgages. Eight neighborhoods will be targeted for the funds: Urbandale, Vision 2020, Southwest Lansing, Potter-Walsh, Baker-Donora, Oak Park, Comstock and Prudden East Village.

Johnson also highlighted the 15 houses slated to be rehabbed for permanent supportive services, which he said would be targeted toward "our brothers and sisters living on couches” — those that are homeless.

The City Council is required to vote on the plan by Dec. 1, at which time the plan heads to the federal administrators for approval. If all goes well, the funds will be in place in early-to-mid January with the eight outlined activities following soon after.

Lynne Martinez, director of the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, said, "You will see very exciting things happening."

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