Residents, business owners get valuable info at Moss Point economic, housing fair

Vivian Austin

MOSS POINT, Mississippi — A steady flow of residents and business owners streamed through Pelican Landing Conference Center for the first combined Community Economic and Housing Development Fair on Wednesday.

Twenty businesses, banks, and federal, state and city agencies provided information and advice to South Mississippi residents.

Julia Holmes of Moss Point came to gather information for her husband William and son Tristan, a recent business graduate, who have operated Community Cleaners on Frederick Street for the past two years.

“I’ve just a learned a lot of stuff, and everything I heard was really helpful,” she said. “I just loved it. Everybody was able to answer any question I have. I like the intimacy. I didn’t feel rushed. Everybody took a lot of time and I loved the one-on-one,” she said.

Holmes wanted information about marketing, taxes and utilities in Moss Point. She said personnel with the small business incubator in Moss Point guided William and Tristan Holmes through the development process when they started their business.

Yasin Shabazz of Biloxi said he wanted general information about housing. He’s attended a previous community economic development fair held at Pelican Landing, and said he also was looking to find out about the future direction of Moss Point.

He is interested in relocating to Moss Point or anywhere in Jackson County, but that he is not ready to buy a home right now.

“I like the Moss Point area, and I’ve been considering it,” he said. “I want to find out the things that are in the works for the city.”

He was impressed by the information about federal and state housing programs, and met several banking representatives.

“It’s good to have these representatives here and good to know they can provide match resources and additional resources. They can collaborate with each other and with their programs, being in this one place,” said Shabazz.

The fair included such agencies as Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Mississippi Center for Justice, and Gulf Coast Renaissance, which offers a Green Loan Fund for energy efficient upgrades and ADA (American Disability Act) upgrades.

Monica Walker, business development director with Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District, said its customers range from nursing homes to retail stores. “A majority of the people who have come by the table were interested in what’s available for themselves or someone else.”

Daphne Viverette, community development director, said the Moss Point Community Development Department combined two programs normally held at different times as a cost-saving measure. As well, April is Fair Housing Month, but only a March date was available for use of Pelican Landing.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority partnered with the city to present the fair as part its national housing initiative, said America Collins.

“The purpose of this event was to promote small business development, to promote various federal, state and local programs for business expansion and sustainability in our community,” said Viverette.

“We will also have a few local banks, realtors, and programs that promote self-wealth through home ownership. Our priority is to grow and develop a viable economic community that will become a lucrative economic engine,” she said.

Billy Booth, assistant vice president and branch manager with First Federal Savings and Loan, was among financial professionals that also included Community Bank and Regions Bank, the latter whose representatives also talked to residents about investing.

He said that among factors two are basic for homeownership. “In making a loan we look at two things – debt income ratio and credit score. Some people have the ability to pay (their debts), but they don’t pay them,” said Booth.

He said fair participants asked about starter homes and refinancing of their houses.

Booth likes the housing fair offered in Moss Point because the Home Investment Partnership Grant Program funded through HUD provides up to $23,000 for down payment, closing cost, or mortgage buy down for purchase of an existing home in the city, just north of the city limits and within the Escatawpa Utility District area. EUD residents also may qualify for loans from the USDA, which is for purchase of homes in rural areas.

To begin application for the grant program, residents should provide a mortgage loan commitment letter, homebuyer education certificate and verification of income. Viverette said the program does not require residents to choose any particular financial institution for a loan, provides homebuyer education, and verifies income of all members of the household.

“We’ve had several people to go through our program already,” said Viverette.”Sometimes they get through the paperwork and start the process and we find that some of them are not credit worthy or they are over the income level.”

She said HUD uses a formula to determine if potential homeowners meet income criteria to qualify for the low-income grant. As well, residents cannot already own a home, or have been a homeowner six months prior to application.

Once an application is made residents will also have to provide an executed sales contract, uniform residential loan application, uniform residential appraisal report, good faith estimate, citizenship verification, certified home inspection clearance, certified lead base inspection clearance if the home was built before 1978, and state historic preservation clearance.

Tayna Franklin-Turner, community development coordinator, said the house has to be under 2,000 square feet. Viverette also said the home has to be located in an area where residents may obtain homeowner and flood insurance.

Mayor Aneice Liddell and Alderman Sherwood Bradford attended the event. He praised Community Development personnel.

“It’s fantastic,” said Bradford. “We can always depend on community development to do great things.”

Liddell said, “We are just trying to educate people and make them aware. People don’t know about all the resources out there. This is an opportunity if they take it to learn.”

Several restaurants and businesses provided gift cards and a gift basket to fair participants.

For more information, contact the Moss Point Community Development Department at 228-474-2345 and 228-0300, Ext 5 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. The office is located at Moss Point City Hall, 4320 McInnis Ave., Suite 207.