Jackson State University is selling 134 parcels of surplus properties to surrounding homeowners at very low costs – generally from $100 to $1,000 – as it seeks to push its growth more toward downtown. So far, 49 properties have sold, with one snagged for just $1.
Mississippi Senate Bill 2681, signed by the governor this year, was enacted July 1. It authorizes JSU to “transfer, convey and dispose of certain tax-forfeited real property and any improvements thereon that are in the possession and control of the university.”
The Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning gave its blessings Oct. 17. The approval included sales of the 49 properties and authorization for JSU to work with Midtown Partners Inc., a community development corporation, to help sell the surplus properties.
140 applications submitted
Heather Wilcox, director of community engagement, said JSU began disseminating information at the beginning of the year about the upcoming sales.
“We’ve been notifying the public about what the bill entails and how we can sell properties around the university. So, we began officially taking applications from the neighborhoods on July 1 and continued through July 31,” Wilcox said. “We received approximately 140 applications, and we were able to sell 49 properties through Phase I of the registration.”
She said JSU sold the majority of the properties at about 10 percent of their market value. “Most of the properties went from $100 to around $1,000. One even sold for just $1 to a neighbor who lives next door to the property.”
In addition, Wilcox said, “Properties that don’t sell will go to the community development corporation (CDC).” Generally, this is because most people simply don’t meet the criteria.
Wilcox emphasized strongly that JSU wants to put the properties back into the hands of the community. However, there are stipulations. Potential buyers must be homeowners who live within 0.25 miles of the property they desire to purchase and provide authenticating documentation.
‘Back in their hands’
Wilcox credited JSU President William B. Bynum Jr. for “setting the precedent for how much we sold the properties for, who they went to, and working with the communities to make sure the properties were back in their hands. We were bound by the legislation, but Dr. Bynum gets credit for being fair to community homeowners so they could purchase the properties.”
Meanwhile, there is hope for those who don’t quality but still desire to purchase property. “They can work with the CDC, which has more leeway to sell,” Wilcox said.
Now, in Phase II, Midtown will have only until Dec. 31 to sell the remaining 85 properties. Afterward, the properties “shall revert to the possession and control of the university on January 1, 2020,” according to SB 2681.
Finally, an important aspect about the sales is that all properties will go back onto the tax roll and will help generate annual revenue for the city of Jackson, Wilcox said.