09/27/05 — Grant provides families with better housing

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Grant provides families with better housing

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 27, 2005 1:52 PM

Evelyn Kelly didn't mind when a man told her the county was going to have to tear down her old house.

County officials say several dilapidated houses like the one Ms. Kelly had in the Potter's Hill community near Beulaville are scattered all over Duplin County.

"The only house I cried about leaving was when I was 18 years old and had to leave my daddy's old homeplace," she said. "That was the first time ever I'd moved. My daddy had been there 50 years."

Mrs. Kelly is 65 now.

She said after her husband, Fred, died in 1988, her children lived with her at the old house until they started getting married and moving out.

She has one daughter still with her, Patsy, who is 34.

The family lived in the original house for 21 years, but it was old and in bad shape. The floor joists fell, and termites moved into the wood.

Mrs. Kelly found out about a program to combat dilapidated housing through her sister, who knew some people who received a doublewide mobile home to replace their old one. The county received federal money that came through the state in the form of a Community Development Block Grant to fund the project.

Community Development Planner Randall Tyndall from the Duplin County Planning office is part of the reason Mrs. Kelly has a new home.

Tyndall has been helping people solve housing problems since the county created his job to deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Floyd in the fall of 1999.

"We still have some who are not fully recovered and are still rebuilding from Floyd," he said. "Duplin County is aggressively seeking grants to help people rehabilitate their homes."

He said he has continued to maintain a list of unmet housing needs ever since Floyd. There are still 500 people on the list, he added. Tyndall gathers the names, addresses and contact numbers of people who call for housing help, and records problems like broken exterior windows or doors or leaky roofs.

But the problem is larger than his list, he said, and data from the 2000 census and updated in 2003 "blew my mind," he said.

The census identified 687 houses in Duplin County that don't have water and sewer service.

The median year that owner-occupied houses were built in Duplin County was 1977. Mrs. Kelly's old house was built in 1958.

"The majority on my list have lived in their houses more than 30 years and can't maintain them," Tyndall said.

The substandard houses are scattered all over the county, he said, and none are concentrated in any one place. He said he found that 3,747 owner-occupied homes in Duplin County have reported problems. That's 27.4 percent of the homeowners in the county.

He said when money comes to the county to help people with their housing problems, he tries to make sure it's making things better for people. He said he is sure Mrs. Kelly will qualify for a reduction in her property taxes, "and we will strongly encourage her to apply for that."

When Mrs. Kelly first sought help, she said she thought the county was going to use the grant money to fix up her old house. When an engineer from the county's engineering firm McDavid and Associates inspected the property, he told her she would have to have a new one.

Mrs. Kelly and her daughter have been in a mobile home since June 26, and the county has been paying rent from the grant.

Mrs. Kelly's other daughter, Barbara Sharon, is keeping an eye on her mom.

"She is real excited about getting into her new home," Ms. Sharon said.

Mrs. Kelly goes over to the new house every few days. A part of her new house is standing over a section of the old one. The new structure is expected to be finished in early October.