A $500,000 state grant will help rehabilitate dilapidated homes and apartments in a south Cape Girardeau neighborhood, part of a continuing effort to upgrade neighborhoods in the city and help people become homeowners.
The state Department of Economic Development announced the grant, part of more than $3 million in state funding for 15 Missouri cities. Cape Girardeau received the largest single grant in the latest funding cycle.
The Jefferson-Bloomfield streets neighborhood is plagued by substandard housing, inadequate streets and sidewalks, and a high crime rate, Cape Girardeau city officials said. There are a number of vacant rental houses.
Stephen Williams, housing assistance coordinator for the city of Cape Girardeau, said the grant money will be used to rehabilitate 24 substandard housing units in an area bounded by Benton Street on the west, Jefferson Street on the south, Pacific Street on the east and Bloomfield Street on the north.
The latest grant project could begin late this year. Williams said the rehabilitation work will take about two years.
In addition to the housing upgrades, the city will spend $92,705 in cash and in-kind services to replace about 590 square feet of sidewalk, and install curb, gutters and a water line.
Downpayment assistance will be provided to help some low-income families purchase houses in the neighborhood, Williams said.
As part of the project, a neighborhood watch program will be established to help combat crime, he said.
Williams said the city has used previous neighborhood development grants to upgrade housing in other southside neighborhoods. Williams said the improvements are more than just new siding and other hammer-and-nail upgrades.
"It's the improvement of the mental attitude," he said, and is to help homeowners take responsibility for their houses and neighborhood.
"They are invested in their community," he said.
Marilyn Rhodes of 324 S. Benton St. loves the neighborhood development program. Grant money helped fix up her house last year, and the program also helped change her from a renter to a homeowner.
'It's wonderful," she said Friday as she washed her car in front of her frame house. Like other renovated houses in her neighborhood, Rhodes' home has vinyl siding.
Rhodes has lived in the house for 13 years, but up until this year she rented it. Now she owns it and is paying a mortgage.
Rhodes said some people can't imagine how nice some of the houses could look with a little construction work. "People look at it the way it is," she said.
335-6611, extension 123