VOL. 110 | NO. 28 | Friday, February 9, 1996
lj 10/5 cates
"Child" of FmHA growing up in Shelby County
Millingtons elderly housing renovation project latest recipient of RECD funds
By LAURIE JOHNSON
The Daily News
When Millington city officials decided to begin a program to help elderly residents weatherproof their homes, they found assistance from a descendant of the former Farmers Home Administration.
Through a grant from Rural Economic and Community Development (RECD), one of the federal agencies created to replace the FmHA, the city was able to have emergency repairs made on about 30 homes in its annexation reserve area.
"Our function is to address the priorities of communities in rural America, which are very different from those in the urban areas," said Jeff Powell, public information coordinator for the RECD.
Last year, the RECD invested more than $2 million in Shelby County, primarily in single-family and multi-family housing loans and grants, Powell said.
In 1994, Congress passed legislation that drastically reorganized the Department of Agriculture and eliminated the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA). The farm programs under FmHAs umbrella were grouped into the Consolidated Farm Services Agency, and RECD was created to administer rural non-farming programs.
According to its mission statement, RECDs goal is to enhance the ability of rural people to create and sustain their ventures and communities. It is comprised of three branches: the Rural Housing Service, the Rural Utilities Service and the Rural Business-Cooperative Development Service.
The Rural Housing Service provides home ownership and home improvement loans, as well as rental and cooperative housing loans.
The Rural Utilities Service provides and guarantee loans for development of water and waste disposal systems in rural areas and towns with populations of less than 10,000 people. Municipalities, counties, special purpose districts, Indian tribes and not-for-profit corporations are eligible.
The utilities program also makes loans and loan guarantees to electric companies, as well as corporations interested in improving telephone service to rural areas.
The improvement of the overall economic climate of rural communities through the development of business and industry is the goal of the Rural Business-Cooperative Development Service.
"In many of these communities, theres a shortage of capital, so we work with the banks and other lenders to guarantee loans that will allow the business community to expand," Powell said.
Powell said the Rural Housing Service program guaranteed $72 million in single-family housing loans throughout Tennessee in 1995. The Rural Utilities Service program authorized $42 million in water and waste loans and grants, and the Rural Business-Cooperative Development Service program authorized $17 million in loans and grants.
The annexation reserve area of Millington qualified for a housing preservation grant from the Rural Housing Service program, and the city received $125,000 from the agency for its housing renovation project for the elderly.
"Its more than just economic development its community development," Powell said. "We want to include the quality of life aspect."
As the lead federal entity for rural economic development, the organization plans to work through partnerships with other governmental agencies, as well as with private industry and the communities themselves.
"Millingtons elderly housing project was its effort to help the people in that community who dont live inside the city," said Jim Vazquez, manager with the Shelby County Department of Housing.
"It was an effort to get some assistance to the north Shelby County area, which hasnt received a lot of grant money in the past," he said.
The RECD worked in conjunction with both the city of Millington and the Shelby County Department of Housing on the project. The city also received $75,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the county, Vazquez said.
"In the old days of FmHA, we were primarily a bank of sorts," Powell said. "Now and in the future, we will be focusing more on becoming a resource center to help communities and businesses find out exactly what they need. We dont just hand out a lot of money because theres not a lot of money to hand out."
Powell said Tennessees transition to this new system has been a fairly painless one, as far as reorganizations go. "Weve had good leadership in this area," he said. "Our state director, David Sievers, has been successful in implementing the new programs, so things have moved along pretty smoothly."