Cities and municipalities are having trouble spending the money allotted by the controversial Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which was passed by Congress last year to acquire houses in blighted neighborhoods.

The goal was to buy vacant properties at 1 percent less than appraised value, rehab them, and either sell or rent the homes to low-income residents.

The stumbling block is that the houses are being purchased by private investors and more affluent home buyers at cheap prices.

Some people don’t see that as a problem. If the private market is coming back and buying houses and crowding the government out, that's not a bad thing, said Joseph Pigg, senior counsel at the American Bankers Association.

In some areas, the nonprofit National Community Stabilization Trust is working with banks to give government access to foreclosed homes before they are put on the market. But that may be too little, too late. It's very unclear when the dust settles how much real change in neighborhood stability and quality of life we'll see, said housing expert Alan Mallach of the Brookings Institution.

Source:, Tami Luhby (09/29/2009)