Action Report: How Moss Point lost $4M in grant money

Action Report: How Moss Point lost $4M in grant money

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Four million dollars in grant money that the city of Moss Point hoped to use to build low income housing is now in limbo.

In 2014 and 2015, Moss Point was eligible for a grant through the Mississippi Development Authority. However, MDA pulled the plug on the program because Moss Point failed to follow the strict grant guidelines.

Now, the person in charge of managing grants for the city has resigned.

WLOX's A.J. Giardina uncovered the problem after hearing from a man who thought he was getting a brand new home.

Anthony Nelson can no longer live in his home because the walls and the ceilings have caved-in. Termites and weather have destroyed the dwelling he once called home.

In 2014, Nelson received a ray of hope when he saw an ad for the MDA Home Investment Program. He filled out the application and met with the city grant writer who helped him choose a plan for his new home.

"I've been waiting two years," Nelson said. "Kept going down there, kept going down there and they said, 'Oh, the grant is in.' The next thing you know, they tell me the grant money is gone."

Nelson is now living in a rental trailer miles away from the dilapidated home he owns.

"I lived in this mildew for like two years," stated Nelson.

How does it make Nelson feel knowing that he thought he was going to have his home rebuilt and two years later the home has collapsed and he can no longer live in there?

"Depressing," Nelson said. "Mentally disturbing. Think that you're going to get help and then, you know, waiting and waiting and nothing happens."

WLOX's A.J. Giardina went to Moss Point City Hall to talk with the grant writer but was told she had resigned when he got there.

Community Development Director Cathy Keeton said MDA rejected the city's grant application in both 2014 and 2015.

"The letter that we received back said that we were ineligible based on the fact that we did not comply with certain guidelines," said Keeton. "It is very strict. HUD gives us the guidelines that we must follow."

According to Keeton, Nelson didn't even qualify for the grant because his home was built before 1978. Only homes built after that year qualify.

"It is true that his application was part of the package submitted by a grant writer," said Keeton. "But that project unfortunately did not receive enough points through the evaluation process with the Mississippi Development Authority."

A lot of others didn't qualify either. Keeton said 72 residents applied for the program. The city is working to reapply for the housing grant this year.

"We have homeowner rehab that needs to be done, as well as rental rehab, and we are very much interested," Keeton said. "As a matter of fact, we are preparing now, hopefully, to apply for the next cycle."

Keeton said she does not know when the city might be able reapply for the home grants, but if the approval comes, the city will notify residents to try again.

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