Long, laura, Public Management
Founded in 1795, Newport, Kentucky, is a small urban community of 18,876, located directly across from downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. It is a city that has suffered from urban decay and struggled with an eroding tax base. Residential development, an integral part of any economic development program, is a requisite for creating new growth to increase a city's tax base. Like other cities, Newport has found a pressing need to provide incentive programs to reverse neighborhood decline.
Restoring the Historic District
Newport's East Row Historic District, with over 1,100 buildings, is the second largest such district in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and boasts homes of various architectural periods. But the district has had a large inventory of deteriorated houses, along with a number of housing problems including code violations, a high proportion of rental properties, a lack of affordable funding for renovation, and property appraisals that were inadequate to justify a bank in loaning renovation costs. Thus, the city found it necessary to provide housing rehabilitation funds to assist homeowners in restoring their properties.
At a financial risk, the city acted as its own lending institution and,
leveraging funds from the repayment of a loan from a former UDAG grant, created a $300,000 loan pool. The city offered 3 percent, low-interest matching loans to single-family owner-occupants, with a maximum loan term of 15 years and a $10,000 loan ceiling. This provided the impetus necessary to entice reinvestment in the district's aged housing stock and created more than $1 million in new private investment. The program has been progressive and innovative: there has not been such a low-interest loan program implemented in any other historic district in Kentucky.
With the need to boost residential redevelopment, Newport implemented a program called Rehab-A-Rama. The city set aside a pool of funds from its $300,000 low-interest loan program and offered rehabilitation loans of $10,000 at no interest to participants who would acquire a house in the city's enterprise zone, rehabilitate it, and then place it on the market for sale. Participants could repay the loan to the city on the sale of the house or after one year, whichever came first. As an additional financial incentive, the city granted a five-year property tax moratorium on city real estate taxes. …