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May 1, 2013
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Editorial: Home loan program transfer a constructive move

Suppose there exists a pot of money that helps people accomplish something worthwhile. Better yet, the money eventually comes back to the pot because it’s earmarked for loans, not gifts.

The loan stream, however, has dribbled to a stop because the pot’s guardian lacks the ability to administrate the funds. Yet suppose there also exists an agency with people available to manage the program. And not just the people, but also experience in managing the money.

The solution seems obvious, doesn’t it?

The Roseburg City Council connected the dots last week by transferring a loan fund to NeighborWorks Umpqua. The city this year will give the nonprofit group $75,000 from a fund that was started in 1988 to help low-income homeowners improve their houses. In addition, NeighborWorks will receive the rights to $450,000 in future loan repayments.

The source of the money is not a kettle beside a rainbow but federal Community Development Block Grants. The intention was to help out struggling homeowners with interest-free loans that would be repaid when properties are sold or transferred. Many recipients have been from southeast Roseburg’s historic Mill-Pine neighborhood.

It’s not as if the city is entrusting the agency with untried responsibility. For starters, the nonprofit organization was launched in 1991 to develop affordable housing for low- and moderate-income Douglas County residents. Its administrators established five overlapping business lines that include economic development, homeowner assistance and property management.

In addition, NeighborWorks Umpqua contracted with the city in 2004 to administer the aforementioned loan program after the city was forced to downsize, eliminating the staff members who had managed the program. Last week’s decision extends the agency’s authority, allowing NeighborWorks to make new loans.

This makes sense for many reasons, not the least of which is that NeighborWorks has a waiting list of people seeking loans, according to Housing Director Karan Reed. The city has not been in a position to loan money in the past 10 years.

The lone councilor voting against the transfer of funds and authority expressed the qualm that the loans couldn’t be ensured in the event NeighborWorks ceased operations. Agency representative Stacey Howard assured the council that NeighborWorks is in no danger of disappearing. And even if it did, Reed said, the funds could be transferred to another nonprofit group with a similar mission.

Douglas County residents have been weathering grim news recently in the areas of employment, health standings, school budgets, downtown blight and grisly crimes. Perhaps the revival of a fairly modest loan program seems small potatoes in comparison. Still, Roseburg could use some boosting, even if it’s one dilapidated dwelling at a time.

And with so much criticism leveled generally at government for mismanaged assets, it’s gratifying to see the triumph of simple practicality.

This decision earns our good housekeeping seal of approval.

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The News-Review Updated May 1, 2013 06:48PM Published May 1, 2013 06:48PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.