New Beloit effort planned to grow home ownership

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BELOIT - A Milwaukee nonprofit is set to open a field office in Beloit dedicated to helping renters become homeowners, with an anticipated start for the initiative this summer.

ACTS Housing plans to help an estimated 150 Beloit families seeking home ownership through the $2.9 million program, according to ACTS Housing Executive Director Michael Gosman. The expansion marks the first office outside of Milwaukee, and the effort is fully funded through groups including the Hendricks Family Foundation, Beloit 200, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and Stand Together.

Gosman said the willingness of municipal, private and nonprofit support for the project, coupled with the city's high rate of rent-occupied residential properties, spurred the effort that started 18 months ago.

"It's certainly not a problem that Beloit alone is having," Gosman said. "Filling neighborhoods with more homeowners will benefit everyone in the respective neighborhoods. Those places should improve and become areas that are more desirable and increase property values."

Program participants will be able to select areas of the city they would like to live, but Gosman said up to half of all transactions could come in the Merrill and Hackett neighborhoods - with prospective home buyers having estimated annual incomes of $20,000 to $35,000. The two neighborhoods are at the center of a federally-funded Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) plan to improve both areas, an effort that saw its first year of progress in 2018.

Through funding provided by NRSA, Community Action and Family Services helped 447 residents access resources in 2018, and the city helped foster home ownership for qualified individuals as part of 11 renovations in 2018, including four owner-occupied renovations, six rentals and one new home construction.

"It's really important to our goal as an organization to support families who want to be homeowners and for them to purchase a home in a neighborhood that's right for them," Gosman said. "Our families choose where they want to live. We don't tell a family where they should live."

ACTS Housing will operate a four-person office out of a yet-to-be-announced "centrally located" office space in the city, he added.

Gosman said the organization expects two-thirds of all home sales to take place over homes that are move-in ready, working with financial partners and others to provide financing. Remaining home sales will come from distressed properties, for which the group has a loan pool and consulting team to assist in funding and completing renovations through advisory assistance of an on-site engineer to "coach home buyers throughout" the tricky aspects of home rehabilitation.

Since 2008 the city has experienced an increase of rental properties, along with the loss of jobs from the financial crisis, with employment rebounding to record levels in 2019. It is estimated the city has around 40 percent of homes that are rental units, an issue that's plagued the city's housing stock along with the lack of inventory, updated homes and high construction costs for new residential development.

Since 1995, ACTS Housing has reclaimed more than 860 foreclosed properties and supported more than 2,500 families.

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