The Ramsey County Housing and Redevelopment Authority on Tuesday approved the acceptance of a $1.4 million federal grant to get suburban foreclosed properties reoccupied.

The money will be used in four target areas in Maplewood and Little Canada, parts of ZIP codes 55117 and 55119, where foreclosure rates have been highest.

The money is to be used to buy property, demolish or fix up vacant buildings and provide financial assistance to qualified first-time homebuyers.

The county will be administering the money, but the cities might help with identifying properties and performing inspections, said Denise Beigbeder, county community development director.

The commissioners voted 6-0 to accept the money.

The Ramsey County HRA is calling its housing program Opening Doors. Three parts of the program include:

• $100,000 for deferred loans for eligible buyers who purchase a property in one of the target areas. Eligible buyers will have incomes between 80 percent and 120 percent of area median income.

• $350,000 in deferred loan financing for buyers of homes that need to be fixed up before moving in.

• $807,000 to buy, fix and sell or rent five properties in the target areas. Once the homes are sold, the money would be used to buy, fix and sell or rent another property. The county would contract with for-profit and nonprofit developers.

The county applied for the grant, which comes from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a nearly $4 billion initiative, approved last year as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act.

Minnesota was granted about $58 million in NSP money, with about $47 million going to metro counties and cities and about $11 million to outstate governments.

Out of 21 recipients throughout the state, Minneapolis and St. Paul received the largest share of NSP money, about $14 million and $10.5 million respectively. The Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority was allocated $1.6 million. That money will be used to buy 20 foreclosed houses in Cottage Grove and 10 houses and one 12-unit apartment building in Oakdale.

Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt pointed out during the Tuesday meeting that the grants could be used with the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time buyers that was part of the $787 billion stimulus package that President Barack Obama recently signed.

"That should really help stimulate this market," she said.

The Opening Doors Program isn't in effect yet because the money hasn't officially been put in the county's coffers.

For more information about the program and eligibility requirements, call 651-266-8000.

Chris Havens • 612-673-4148