The Lufkin Daily News

Christmas came early this year for NeighborhoodSTRONG, which received a $300,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas.

The bank on Friday announced it was awarding $16.3 million in Affordable Housing Program grants to 34 projects in partnership with its member financial institutions. Those projects are in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, and will result in the creation or rehabilitation of 2,057 housing units across the region. The bank was created in 1932 to provide affordable housing opportunities to in-need communities. FHLB Dallas annually returns 10% of its profits in the form of housing grants to the communities served by its member institutions. In Lufkin, that’s Austin Bank, Texas N.A.

Affordable Housing Program funding is utilized for a variety of projects, including home rehabilitation and modifications for low-income, elderly and special-needs residents; down payment and closing-cost assistance for qualified first-time homebuyers; and the construction of low-income, multi-family rental communities and single-family homes.

The money will enable the local nonprofit to request funds in project-based increments for at least 30 different houses over a three-year period, NeighborhoodSTRONG director Wayne Lawrence said.

The nonprofit has been working over the last several years to restore many of the older homes in Lufkin’s Wards 1 and 2. The typical cost to repair these homes runs $13,000 to $15,000, Lawrence said.

But more importantly, the grant will offer the nonprofit a sense of relative stability that most nonprofits aren’t able to achieve, Lawrence said.

Most endowments are designed to keep the principal intact so it can grow over time, but allow the nonprofit to use the annual investment income for programs, operations or purposes specified by the donor(s) to the endowment.

“Unless they have an endowment, they’re not really sustainable,’’ Lawrence said, adding, ‘‘I think this will give us a lot of stability over the next three years.’’

Neighborhood Strong also relies heavily on donations from businesses and individuals in the community because there are gaps the federal funding does not reach.

In addition, Neighborhood Strong has received 18 Special Needs Assistance Program Grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank.

Unfortunately, the needs exceed the resources. ...

Applicants on the waiting list may have to wait upwards of two years based on available funding, Lawrence said. For homes that are experiencing weather damage now, they have subcontractors visiting when they can to put up tarps and other deterrents until they can address those problems.

“I wish I could say anyone could speed up the process by any other means, but that’s our greatest needs,” Lawrence said. “We need an additional $150,000 to $200,000 to fully fund those houses.’’

Lawrence said the nonprofit also is happy to accept any help it can get through any other means. They need office supplies, a computer and gas cards. They also need a newer truck that is good on gas mileage that can be used to visit sites and bring supplies.

The Affordable Housing Program funds will enable many of the community projects NeighborhoodSTRONG is pursuing to come to fruition.

That’s fantastic, because when we invest in our community, we invest in our future.