03/23/09 — Grants offer more funds for housing repair work

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Grants offer more funds for housing repair work

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 23, 2009 1:46 PM

Qualifying county homeowners next month may begin applying for a chance to have their homes repaired through a $400,000 Single Family Rehabilitation grant from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency.

Commissioners at their recent meeting adopted the paperwork necessary to get the process under way.

It was one of two grant-related issues before the board.

The board also decided to apply for a $75,000 grant to help the county be better prepared to apply for future Community Development Block Grants.

The $400,000 grant targets moderate housing rehabilitation needs in the range of $20,000 to $40,000 per home. The county wants to rehabilitate approximately 10 houses so they do not fall into the dilapidated condition normally addressed by Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, said project manager David Harris of RSM Harris Associates of Goldsboro.

CDBG programs focus on major rehabilitation or in some cases replacements of houses that are beyond repair.

"There is going to be $400,000 worth of construction work going on in the county," Harris said.

To qualify, the single-family houses must be owned and occupied by an elderly person, 62 or older, or disabled person whose gross annual household income does not exceed 80 percent of the county's median income.

The property cannot be located in a flood plain.

Homeowners who live inside the Goldsboro city limits are not eligible for the program, Harris said, since the city falls under a different program.

Harris said the application pool will "start from scratch" so that everyone will be on the same footing meaning people who applied before will have to apply again.

Commissioners will make the final decision on who is selected.

Applications will be available to the public starting April 15 and must be returned to Harris at RSM Harris Associates Inc., P.O. Box 10037, Goldsboro N.C. 27532-0010 by 5 p.m. June 15.

The selection of the houses must be made by Oct. 1. Work must be under contract by March 31, 2010, and completed by Dec. 31, 2010.

Applications may be picked up at the Wayne County Planning Depart-ment, Cooperative Exten-sion Service, Health Department or Department of Social Services.

No one spoke during a brief public hearing prior to the board's vote to apply for the $75,000 CDBG Talent Enhancement Demonstra-tion Grant.

There is no county match and the only requirement is that the county apply for CDBG funding at the end of two years, Harris said.

The grant is a new category of funding, he said.

"The new office of Rural Development Programs in the Department of Commerce recognized the need for commerce to focus more on rural areas, particularly in the east," Harris said. "This category of funding is only available for counties east of Interstate 95, so they are focusing on eastern North Carolina for a change."

The grant, he said, is designed to provide $75,000 in planning funds so that a county is able to do several things.

The first is to partner with the East Carolina Univer-sity (ECU) Office of Engagement, Innovation and Economic Development. He said that ECU would provide whatever assistance the county might need in terms of planning, developing or conducting surveys to gather information in the county to be in a better position to submit applications for funding in the future, the future being the two-year grant project period.

"The ECU staff will serving as facilitators to direct the focus into some of the needs of the county you are aware of, but need further documentation. The two primary areas are going to be in housing and neighborhood improvements and economic development," Harris said.

Two other areas are water and sewer, but since the county is not in that business, it will not be a focus unless it relates to economic development, Harris said.

The funding should provide a more exhaustive survey of housing needs in the county so that when funding is available it will be in a better position for submitting applications.

Often when funding is announced there are only 30-60 days to compile needed information, Harris said.

This study, will mean the county already has that information on hand.

"You know where the primary needs are, but how about the other ones, neighborhoods no one has said anything about or where there has been a decline in recent years," he said. "This will help (county) staff be better trained and more knowledgeable of the area and the county to be better prepared to submit applications."

Commissioner Jack Best wanted to know if the $75,000 was a one-time payment with all of the money going to ECU or if it would be spent over a period of time as the county requested information.

Harris said it is a "one-time contract" that includes $7,500 for strictly administrative uses. At the outset county officials will set out the county's needs and contract for those services. It is a one-time contract, he said.

County Manager Lee Smith added the federal stimulus package contains provisions requiring the county to have certain guidelines in place "to get some of the money."

"If nothing else, this really helps us be in line for those," he said. "It is just good business to have those policies in place."

Commissioner Andy Anderson asked if the work would be a student-driven class project.

Smith said graduate students might assist in some ways, but that the work is done by ECU staff.

"They just don't hand it out to a graduate student and say, 'here is your project,'" Smith said.