Just over half of a new $4 billion federal housing program approved late last year will go to purchase and fix up foreclosed homes nationwide, a study released this week showed.

The program aims to raise home values by helping state and local governments buy bank-owned properties, repair or demolish them, and help working families make the leap to homeownership. And Congress added another $2 billion to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program this year when it passed the economic stimulus package.

The first round of grants were allocated to states and cities as part of a housing rescue plan that was regarded at the time as the most significant housing legislation in a generation. The Department of Housing and Urban Development signed off on more than 300 proposals from all 50 states.

Around 56 percent of the grants approved last year will be used to buy and rehabilitate properties that have been abandoned or foreclosed, according to the report from Enterprise Community Parnters.

Twenty-one percent will be used to help low- to moderate-income families purchase the homes, while just 6 percent will be used to demolish vacant properties.

“These are pretty flexible funds that allows you to serve extremely low-income families all the way up to working families and that’s unique,” said Alazne Solis of the Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit financier for affordable housing.

The group’s report provides the first look at how states and local governments nationwide plan to use the money.

While Solis praised the program, critics say the grant proposals are too vague and the program lacks oversight and accountability. The plan has also drawn fire from some neighborhood groups that want a say in how the money is spent.

In foreclosure-ravaged Ohio, for example, where grantees will get about $258 million, the Livingston Avenue Area Commission in Columbus continues to press city officials to include the group in meetings about the funding.

“We are the neighborhood,” gripes Bryan Boatright, vice president of the group. “I wake up every morning and look out my window and see it. The folks in the administrative offices wake up every morning and have to drive 10 miles to it. It’s more important than ever residents have a say in what’s happening in their backyards.”

Enterprise did recommend lawmakers monitor the outcomes of the program.


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