Mayor John Dickert is prodding local contractors to apply for the $3.1 million the city has available to renovate homes in foreclosure.
Surrounded by union leaders, Dickert announced the city was sending letters and forms to 300 city contractors who may be eligible for the renovation work, which is being paid for with state and federal money.
The city plans to buy 29 homes in foreclosure, tear down five of them and renovate the rest. Homes that are torn down will be replaced with new construction.
News about the "Neighborhood Stabilization Program" isn't new; the city has been talking about plans for the money for at least six months. But Dickert's effort to recruit city contractors was a new idea that the mayor is hoping pays off in additional work for Racine workers.
The program itself is little more than sending a letter to the local contractors encouraging them to file a "Request for Qualifications" form with the Department of City Development. After filing the letter, qualifying contractors will be eligible to bid on renovation work to the homes in foreclosure.
While the city can't prevent outsiders from bidding on the work, Dickert said he hopes local businesses will overwhelm the process and make it all but certain they come out on top.
Tuesday's announcement was an important moment for the mayor. After months of talking about plans to rejuvenate the city's housing stock, Dickert, a former Realtor, stepped forward with a concrete proposal.
Along with creating local jobs, he has a plan to sell the homes and recycle the money into additional homes. City Development is focusing on buying homes on the "Towerview" neighborhood on the city's near south side. The hope is to make a big splash in the neighborhood by increasing home ownership, which should reduce crime, Dickert said.
Dickert said he'll rely on his background in real estate to sell the city-owned homes to families. While Dickert can't sell them himself - he turned in his Realtor's license - he's relying on his experience to motivate local companies to move the homes instead of letting them sit on the market.
The city will bid out the listings, but won't make a decision based solely on the low bid, Dickert said. One agency may be willing to cut its commission to 3 percent to land the homes, but may not be willing to do the work to find a desirable buyer.
To combat this, Dickert said, he plans to list out a series of specific actions any bidder will have to take to get a city listing. In return, they can get their usual 6 percent commission. But they'll have to aggressively market and sell the home to get the city contract.
Dickert, who worked for First Weber, said the city will select the top three bidders to sell city-owned homes. The properties will rotate through the agencies as they come on the market. The rotating system will help prevent charges of favoritism, Dickert said.
Selling the city-owned homes is the key to Dickert's plan. Not only does it get a family in a home that was in foreclosure, it brings in money needed to fix up and sell additional homes. Dickert said he hopes to turn over the first round of homes within two years and move on to the next neighborhood.