The Mississippi Housing Partnership (formerly Jackson Metro Housing Partnership) is a private, 501(c)3 non-profit housing corporation founded in November 1991 with a mission to provide safe, decent and affordable housing for low and moderate income residents of the city of Jackson, Mississippi. A public-private partnership between city government, local financial institutions, two public utilities and community-based groups, MHP’s original mission also included serving as an umbrella organization for coordinating the efforts of all non-profit housing entities operating within the capitol city.
Utilizing its public-private collaboration as a catalyst for change, MHP quickly recognized that a major barrier to improved housing was the city’s relatively low homeownership rate. As a result, a financing mechanism was created which allowed for increased homeownership among lower income families and consequently aided in the stabilization of various communities while strengthening the city’s weakening tax base. This was carried out via MHP’s First-Time Homebuyer Program where approximately 430 families have realized the dream of homeownership.
The program, which remains in operation today, permits MHP to leverage public dollars allocated by the city of Jackson to provide low-interest, second mortgage financing with first mortgage loans offered by a local bank. This concept makes the combined loans more affordable since MHP provides 30% of the overall financing at a 2% interest rate for a 25-year term. The participating bank does 70% of the financing and thus is the reasoning behind their first mortgage position. In some cases, purchasers are also eligible for up to $4,000.00 in down payment and closing costs assistance via Federal Home Loan Bank funds.
As one might imagine, the faces of many aspiring homeowners have beamed with joy as what once appeared unattainable has now become reality. As a pre-requisite for participation in MHP’s first-time homebuyer program, eligible applicants are asked to attend extensive homebuyer education and training conducted by MHP staff. Through its eight-year membership in the Housing Partnership Network (HPN), an affiliation of 86 housing partnerships throughout the country, MHP continues to enhance its ability to offer quality homeownership counseling services. Such counseling is available from both a pre and post-purchase standpoint and is thus also offered to families who are not necessarily MHP loan participants. Families facing foreclosure, those experiencing predatory lending or considering home equity conversion mortgages and/or reverse mortgage counseling are all eligible. These are vital homeownership choices and MHP has assisted thousands of clients through its counseling efforts.
Although increased homeownership remains the primary focus of MHP, the group has conducted a myriad of other housing functions since inception. Again utilizing a combination of public funds and private resources, MHP has worked to tackle the deterioration of existing housing stock and the presence of vacant, dilapidated structures in both the Midtown and West Park areas of the city of Jackson. MHP has witnessed the rehabilitation of over 200 single-family and multi-family units of housing by way of its own Housing Rehabilitation Program. Many of these were vacant units while others were owner-occupied dwellings. The organization has also played a vital role in supporting other non-profit groups in their housing rehab efforts. Such organizations as Voice of Calvary Ministries, West Jackson Community Development Corporation and Habitat for Humanity, have all benefited from relationships with MHP.
As an extension of its housing rehabilitation efforts, MHP joined with several other entities in January 1995 to launch what was called the Midtown Model Block initiative. This was yet another example of collaboration between MHP, the city and private entities to bring much-needed revitalization to the North Midtown Neighborhood of Jackson. Officially referred to as “Operation Restore Pride,” this effort not only resulted in improved housing stock for the area, but italso brought about better infrastructure and stronger commitments to confront the community’s overall social needs. Active partners were MHP, Habitat for Humanity of Metro Jackson, Inc., Entergy Corporation, Mississippi Valley Gas Company (now Atmos Energy), local banks, neighborhood residents and the city. Because of MHP’s ability to pull all of the aforementioned entities together, the fruits of this partnership are clearly evident today. With MHP’s assistance in acquiring properties in Midtown, Habitat has constructed over 100 new homes in the area. The Jackson Housing Authority also built new homes in Midtown and MHP has rehabilitated approximately 75 additional housing units. There remains much work to be done, nonetheless, dramatic changes have taken place in this community. Many families became homeowners as a result of the Model Block initiative and others saw positive differences in their existing living conditions.
Recognizing a growing demand for more affordable and decent rental housing, MHP conducts property management on a smaller scale. All of the units managed by MHP are owned by the organization and are primarily located in Midtown and West Jackson. A total of 80 rental units are now managed by MHP as it strives to offer hands-on assistance to families who are not yet prepared for homeownership but are in need of better low cost housing. MHP staff holds regular meetings with residents in order to gather their concerns and hear ideas on how property management duties might be improved so that a better neighborhood can be realized. If not for the service offered by MHP, many families would not have suitable and cost effective rental housing.
As a means of further indicating MHP’s active housing involvement, the group moved quickly to identify several of its existing housing units which could be available for occupancy by families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The idea for assisting hurricane victims arose from a pure desire to lend much-needed support during this awfully critical time in the lives of so many families. Since the initiation of its hurricane relief efforts, at least (16) families have been placed by MHP with a total of (35) people represented by these families. Additional families are being assisted as space becomes available and MHP has facilitated the identification of alternative housing by working with other agencies. In order to offer comfortable and hassle-free living environments for Katrina families, MHP worked with various entities to furnish units with bedding, sofas, lamps, appliances and other essential items. The staff worked diligently to solicit and receive donations of clothing, food and water following the hurricane. MHP received grants from such groups as the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Foundation for the Mid-South, BancorpSouth and others to assist in its Katrina functions. Most of the aforementioned families remain housed in MHP rental units today and some are seeking to become homeowners.
The group now employs four full-time staff persons and two part-time individuals all of which reside within the city limits of Jackson. The salaries of these individuals are probably low in comparison to similar non-profits, therefore, demonstrating their strong commitment to keeping the organization’s costs at a minimum. MHP often employs painters, carpenters and other contractors to assist with maintenance functions. Other business entities provide certain professional services to the group.
While MHP owns the office building in which it operates, part of the space is leased to a University of Mississippi-affiliated clinic which offers free or low cost healthcare to local residents. For this reason MHP has kept its square footage leasing cost fairly low, allowing the clinic to continue the worthwhile service it offers.
It is easy to see that MHP has accomplished much since creation, however, long-term financial assistance is needed in order for the organization to continue its mission. The group has and continues to help many families with their housing needs and has been instrumental in directly or indirectly employing many individuals, thereby playing a vital economic role as well. It is imperative that MHP gets the kind of assistance needed to do more good for the City of Jackson and for the State of Mississippi.