Interest in the city of Highland’s Community Development Home Buyer Program prompted the City Council on Monday to fast-forward enough funding to subsidize 10 more sales in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
The Home Buyer Program assists people with the purchase of a home in historic Highland —defined with the borders of Hemlock on the west, Poplar Street on the east, Sixth Street on the north and 21st Street on the south.
Under the program, the city provides a home buyer a five-year, forgivable loan for a maximum of $3,000, if they purchase a home in the defined area. Property being purchased may be either a detached single-family home or condominium.
The primary purpose of the program is to help to stabilize property values. By encouraging ownership in existing homes, it’s thought those properties would be maintained better than if it they turned into rental property.
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“One property was a foreclosure. So to get that to not show up as a foreclosure anymore is huge,” said Assistant City Manager Lisa Peck.
The council first approved the program in July 2015, with enough money for 30 home sales. However, they were to be spread out over a three-year period. But the program has already had a dozen closings on properties within the eligible area, and city staff has received seven more applications in the last week, Peck said.
Therefore, Peck asked that the council make all funds previously approved available for the upcoming year.
Peck said the program has drawn people into Highland from surrounding communities, including St. Louis, Germantown and Pierron.
“All of the out-of-town people specifically named this program,” Peck said.
Local lenders and Realtors have been supportive of the program, Peck said, and downpaymentresource.com and Bank of America Down Payment Resource Center (DPRC) have the program listed on their sites. Realtors are also marketing properties within the eligible area as eligible for the program.
Early indications are that what was once a “stagnant” market has picked up, Peck said.
“The days on the market has significantly declined,” Peck said.
But while initial signs are positive, council members said they want more data before they considering renewing the program.
Councilman Aaron Schwarz said he wanted to make sure the city was not just giving money to people who would have purchased the same homes, regardless of the program.
“We just want to make sure we are vetting it fully,” he said.
Other Council Action
New budget approved
The council unanimously approved a $48.3 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Next year’s budget is a 2 percent increase over last year’s and presents with a $2 million deficit.
The red is mainly due to the installation of a new clarifier at the water treatment plant, will be paid for entirely with reserve funds. The project was planned for the current fiscal year, but will now not be completed until the upcoming year. The city also continues to incur cost as it builds out its fiber-to-the-home system to all city residents.
The new fiscal year begins May 1.
Current budget amended
The council also voted to amend the budget for the current fiscal year to account for additional costs for the Veterans Honor Parkway and Rinderer Park and the continued use of sewer bond proceeds to construct sewer line improvements. (A list of all the amendments can be found linked to this story online at highlandnl.com.)
Contract approved with police union
The council approved a new contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents the city’s patrol officers. The new three-year contract call for raises of 2 1/4 percent in the first two years and a 2 1/2 percent raise in year three, City Manager Mark Latham said.
Rezoning approved for Highland Business Park Subdivision
The council unanimously approved a request from Cyril B. “Pete” Korte to rezone a parcel at 130 Executive Drive from C-3 Highway Business to Industrial.
Korte is planning to subdivide one lot into two, giving him the potential to sell off a portion of the property.
The rezoning is a reversal of a previous zoning map amendment that was recommended May 10, 2006 on this specific property. However, the rezoning falls within the guidelines of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
According to city staff, the property is already served by the city infrastructure, and with the rezoning, it is expected that there will be no significant increases needed. Traffic circulation will not be impacted, either.
The Combined Planning and Zoning Board previously voted 7-0 in favor of recommending the changes to the City Council.
Rate increases approved for HCS
Highland Communication Services (HCS) data and video rates will each increase $5.
Costs for both data and video have continued to increase since the inception of HCS.
For the video services, HCS now is required to pay for video content from the various local channel providers and also continued to have content cost increases. Therefore, city staff recommend, and the council approved, an increase to local access charge for each video customer of $5 at each level of video service. These changes are in direct relation to rising costs to HCS.
For the data services, HCS is incurring additional costs due to the increased bandwidth required to serve our customers’ needs. As a result, a $5 rate increase to each level of residential and commercial data service was also adopted.
An addition of a $10 late fee will also added to delinquent customers’ bills at the time a late notice is mailed. The new late fee is consistent with the practice on the city utility bills.
McGinley OKed for Police Pension Board, again
The council unanimously approved Mayor Joe Michaelis’ appointment of Bonnie McGinley to the Police Pension Board. Michaelis had just appointed McGinley, a former City Council member, to the pension board in March to fill the unexpired term of Dennis Buckalew, which will end in May 1. The new appointment will be for a regular two-year term on the board for McGinley.