COLLIER COUNTY, Fla--It's your money and millions of dollars of it is being spent-- to save our neighborhoods. Local governments are getting federal grants to buy up and fix foreclosed homes.
So why is one county using the funds to buy empty land?
The stimulus package set aside money for something called the Neighborhood Stabilization Project.
It gives millions of dollars to communities to stabilize the wave of foreclosure by buying empty homes and renovating them.
Collier County received $7.3 million to buy foreclosed homes, pay contractors to fix them up, then resell them to low and middle income families.
It's supposed to help stabilize the market and gives contractors jobs.
"We're doing great," said Collier Housing, Veteran and Human Services Director Marcy Krumbine about the program. "We own 52 properties and have another 5 we'll be closing on. That's a total of 57 properties."
CALL FOR ACTION looked through all of the properties Collier purchased.
Most were homes in Golden Gate City and Golden Gate Estates. But among the list of homes purchased, we found seven vacant lots.
"One of our strategies is a land bank strategy," remarked Krumbine about why the county had purchased land.
The strategy is this: buy the land now while it's cheap, hold on to it, and have land put away to build on later when the value goes up.
"Non-profit agencies will be able to build brand new construction on those lots at a fraction of what they had been able to originally because land is the most expensive commodity in collier county," said Krumbine.
"Still?" asked CALL FOR ACTION investigative reporter Melissa Yeager.
"Well, not now. Which is why this is so good because we're purchasing lots at such a reduced price so that it won't factor in as a higher cost of housing." answered Krumbine.
But CALL FOR ACTION found some of those lots cost almost as much as homes!
We found the county purchased one plot of land for $36,000 and the county spent just $6,000 more ($42,000) to buy a duplex.
Housing and Urban Development oversees the Neighborhood Stabilization Project grants.
According to its website, the project does include a strategy for "land banks."
"We're not buying a lot of it," said Krumbine referring to the amount of land the county has purchased. "It is a very small portion of our strategy. We have to think long term we can't just think for now."
So far, the county has purchased 7 vacant lots totaling $180,625.
"In a few years there aren't going to be those homes so we'll be back into a strategy of building new construction," said Krumbine.
HUD rules say the county has to build on that property within the next ten years. CALL FOR ACTION asked Krumbine if she anticipated a change in the market that the county will need that property in ten years.
"I would hope so. I would hope so. Absolutely," said Krumbine.
Click here to view a map of all of the properties purchased by Collier County.
Click here to read information about qualifying to purchase one of the renovated homes.