Lake Worth group redevelops decrepit city neighborhoods.
LAKE WORTH — The 2008 recession slammed Lake Worth hard. At one point, nearly four in 10 downtown homes were in foreclosure.
Now those same neighborhoods are filled with new or rehabilitated houses, inhabited by grateful low- and middle-income families who will make the structures, and the neighborhoods, their home.
The success story is the work of the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Consortium. This month, the growth management watchdog 1000 Friends of Florida presented the group its “Community Steward Award.”
Lake Worth leveraged federal, private and local money and programs “to provide affordable, sustainable housing in its redevelopment area,” 1000 Friends of Florida President Charles Pattison said in a Dec. 9 release.
The consortium, comprising 20 partners, led by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, secured $23.2 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program money in 2010, and used it to rehabilitate or build more than 130 properties.
Another 35 now are under construction, Lake Worth CRA Executive Director Joan Oliva said last week. The CRA, with help from neighborhoods leaders and partners that includ-Department of Housing and Urban Development, bought properties for 1 percent below appraisal price.
Then its various members got to work. Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches provided about 20 new rental and 20 new home-ownership opportunities to low and moderate income households, earning less than 80 percent of area median income. Housing Partnership offered homebuyer education and counseling.
It and the United Way also offered an Individual Deposit Account, a matched savings account that can turn $2,000 in savings into a $6,000 down payment.
Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County built or rehabilitated 36 homes, with families investing “sweat equity” in return for a 30-year, no-interest loan.
Other partners included Palm Beach State College, Housing Leadership Council and the Urban Group. The Urban Arts Lofts, built by the Lake Worth CRA, consists of 12 town houses designed so artists can live upstairs and work in first floor studios.
It’s in the area of Lucerne and Lake avenues and F Street,within walking distance to downtown.
Jacques de Beaufort, a painter, filmmaker and music video producer, moved to South Florida from the Los Angeles area about three years ago. He now teaches art at Palm Beach State College. He was one of the first people to buy a loft.
He’s since done shows in his 700-square-foot, first-floor studio, displaying not just his art but that of others.
Some weekends he’s combined shows with music events, drawing art and music lovers, both young and old. “I think an area everyone had declared dead is just the opposite of that,” de Beaufort said. “It’s exploding, and there’s tons of enthusiasm.”
The CRA also recently completed a project with the Trust for Public Land and other partners to create the Tropical Ridge Fitness Park, a neighborhood park, complete with exercise equipment, at 211 H St. N.
Oliva said the consortium continues to seek money, but “there doesn’t seem to be any large grants from the federal government coming down the pipe any time soon.”
She said the consortium is trying wherever possible to pool its money with private partners for maximum payoff. “There’s still foreclosures,” she said. “It’s just been lessened.
Our biggest issue is trying to get properties within a close distance to each other and beat out the cash buyers. We really would not want to have too many rentals. We’re really striving for home ownership.”
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