08/24/08 — Wayne County applies for grant funds for homes

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Wayne County applies for grant funds for homes

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 24, 2008 12:19 PM

Three households have been selected to have dilapidated dwellings replaced by new ones through a $400,000 federal Community Development Block Grant.

Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning approved the grant application for the scattered-site housing project. The houses are located in Fremont, Goldsboro and Mount Olive.

No one spoke during Tuesday's brief public hearing on the application.

It will be later this year before the county finds out if it will be awarded the grant, and there is no guarantee the application will be funded.

To qualify, the dwellings had to be owner-occupied and applicants had to be elderly, disabled or low income.

Selected were Leonard Bell of Dollard Town Road at Goldsboro, Annie Kelly of South Center Street in Mount Olive and Ethel Mae Elliott of Ballance Road in Fremont.

Along with the application, program policies and administrative guidelines were approved.

"This will allow us to get under way within 30 days instead of months," David Harris of R.S.M. Harris Associates told commissioners.

During a briefing prior to the Tuesday meeting, Harris said all of the houses selected are dilapidated and beyond repair.

"They are owner-occupied, all the people are handicapped, all on Social Security and all but one applicant is elderly, and he is handicapped," he said. "They pretty much represent all needs. This will provide for those who have the greatest housing needs and the greatest inability to meet those housing needs."

Harris said the houses will be stick-built homes to conform to their respective neighborhoods.

He said notices were sent out countywide and "we even talked with officials in the county's smaller municipalities to find families with the greatest needs and the houses in the worst shape. We looked for elderly, handicapped, single parents, large families and people making 50 percent of the median income."

Commissioner Jack Best asked if the houses would go back on the tax books, and if so, would the owners be able to afford the taxes on the new houses.

Harris said the houses would be in the tax books.

"There is a cost of ownership," Harris said.

County attorney Borden Parker suggested home owners could ask the county for a tax exemption.

The exemption is actually a state program -- the Senior Citizens/Disability Exemption, said Alan Lumpkin, Wayne County assistant tax administrator.

Applicants must be North Carolina residents living in their own homes and must be 65 or older or 100 percent disabled. Income cannot exceed $25,000.

The exemption is $25,000 deducted from the value of the property or one-half of the property value, whichever is greater.

For example, Lumpkin said someone with a home valued at $100,000 would get the one-half exemption, paying taxes on $50,000. A person with a $30,000 home would take the $25,000 exemption and pay taxes on $5,000.

The amount of exemption varies yearly based on cost of living, he said.

Applications for the exemptions are taken Jan. 1 through June 1.

Best was also concerned about power bills.

Harris said the houses will energy efficient and require low maintenance.

Harris added that in the 25 years of involvement in CDBG grant programs, he had seen few houses foreclosed on.

"The family takes pride in ownership; finally mom or grandma has a better place to live," he said. "The alternate is a single-wide (mobile home) and then we are going in the wrong direction."