Freddie Mac is guaranteeing up to $10 million in loans that SouthTrust Bank will be offering as mortgages to new homeowners in West Jackson, which can be used to buy or refurbish homes in the 1100 through 1300 blocks of Grand Avenue, south of West Capitol Street and parallel to Robinson Road. The loans, which require a lower down payment than standard mortgages, will be given to families identified by the Voice of Calvary Community Development Corp. as having completed classes on debt management and personal finance; once prepared, the new homeowner can borrow up to 120 percent of a home's value to be used for improvements or debt consolidation. The program is called "Catch the Dream Jackson."
Vaughn Irons, the national director of community development lending for Freddie Mac, says the $10 million public-private initiative represents a new commitment to Jackson and Mississippi in general. Irons said that the $10 million is a "floor, not a ceiling" and that he anticipates more programs to encourage home ownership in Jackson. Home ownership in Jackson, at 58 percent, is considerably lower than the national average of 68.8 percent.
The city of Jackson is committing $250,000 to the project; that money will act as grant money for up to 10 families who may receive up to $25,000 toward a down payment or principal write-down, according to Mayor Harvey Johnson, who said the city of Jackson wanted to "support any and all efforts at home ownership." Irons made the point that urban neighborhoods are failing because not enough is invested in existing homes, while buyers are enticed into newer, suburban homes that cost less to build.
Phil Reed, president and CEO of Voice of Calvary Ministries, hosted the announcement. Voice of Calvary has been upgrading homes and teaching financial responsibility classes in urban Jackson since 1975. Reed introduced Renee Wallace, who was able to purchase a renovated home on Grand Avenue in 2000 despite a bankruptcy and prior credit problems. She credits Voice of Calvary for its efforts in the neighborhood.
Aside from the home projects, Voice of Calvary has purchased the Capitol Street Methodist Church—currently abandoned—and intends to renovate it for worship services and offices for its outreach programs.