08/23/13 — County adds name to housing help list

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County adds name to housing help list

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 23, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County Commissioner Joe Daughtery on Tuesday questioned how the county selects local residents for its federal Community Development Block Grant programs.

The question was raised during board discussions about adding a person to the county's current $400,000 Community Development Block Grant Scattered Site housing project.

The program is designed specifically to provide replacement housing for owner-occupied homes for low-to-moderate income people -- homes that are totally beyond repair and to a great extent, basically uninhabitable, David Harris of RSM Harris Associates of Goldsboro, the project manager, said.

Four primary beneficiaries and two alternates were selected for the current program, he said. Selecting alternates means that the process would not be delayed if one of the primary beneficiaries withdraws or is found to be ineligible, Harris said.

Betty Lee of 1117 Saulston Road was one of the original four primary beneficiaries. Harris said that Ms. Lee no longer lives in her home and therefore is not eligible for housing assistance.

Commissioners approved Harris' recommendation to add alternate Mamie McKinney of 188B Hack Drive in Dudley to the program.

"How are citizens getting on this list?" Daughtery said. "You said she was the next one on the list, and I am just wondering how you get yourself on the list."

The lists relate to specific grants and criteria, Harris said.

"People make requests for housing assistance to us, to the county manager's office, to county staff," Harris said. "Either way it comes to us. We maintain those files. We have maintained those files now for 15, 18 years or longer.

"Then when grant funds are available, we go through those. Also, of course, there is typically an announcement, and we have public hearings that we will continue to receive those applications. Based on the rules for that particular grant, and they do change, we try to identify the families that meet the criteria."

The grants typically focus on helping low-income homeowners and those with special needs, particularly the elderly, the handicapped or those with large families, he said. Also, the homes must be owner occupied.

The county works with its small towns since municipalities are not eligible to apply for the grant on their own, but do fall under the county's umbrella, Harris said.

The lone exception is Goldsboro, since it operates under a different program and cannot participate in the county projects, he said.

A committee made up of representatives of each town and county staff reviews the applications and makes a recommendation, Harris said.

Commissioners hold a public hearing and then make the final decision authorizing the filing of the applications, Harris said.

Daughtery said he had asked the question because he was wondering what the county was doing to reach out to it citizens to make them aware help was available.

All city and county agencies and departments make referrals, Harris said.

"Because it is limited to the very-lowest income people, typically they are a part of one of those systems or agencies," Harris said. "In other words, it is not a wholesale program for the elderly. It has to meet that very defined criteria."

It is possible some people might not be aware of the program, but the county has been involved in the Community Development Block Grant program since 1992, he said. The county has always received applications on a continual basis, Harris said.

However, the county might want to consider a new approach since the current scattered site housing grant cycle in the state will be the last one for the next three years, he said.

The federal government funds the grants, but state lawmakers decide how they are allocated, Harris said. The state has decided to shift focus from housing to water and sewer and economic development, he said.

Commissioner Ed Cromartie said it appeared to be another case of state lawmakers failing to take care of the state's poorest citizens.

Harris said that the water/sewer projects must still adhere to federal guidelines that the grants benefit low- and moderate-income people.

The economic development grants will be earmarked for businesses where 60 percent of the employees hired are low-to-moderate income, he said.

"The categories have changed, but the targeted population has not," Harris said. "We are simply going to be funding low-to-moderate income peoples' neighborhoods and housing where they need water and sewer improvements.

"It is still going to be low-to-moderate income based. Housing, street construction, etc., wouldn't be one of those categories."

Cromartie said that sounded like the benefit would be more "trickle down" than direct.

Harris said the benefit would be direct because the grant would pay for water/sewer taps at a person's home.

The board approved three current grant project demolition contracts with Rick Bostic Construction and Demolition of Kinston for the following:

* 119 Dell Drive, Dudley, owner Heneretta Jones, $3,242

* 309 S. Church St., Mount Olive, owner Betty Lou Rouse, $2,774

* 5451 Camp Jubilee Road, Seven Springs, owner James R. Price III, $1,774.

Also approved were three contracts for replacement housing with Atlantic Housing of Goldsboro and one with Castle Manufactured Homes of Pikeville.

The Atlantic Housing contracts were for:

* Ms. Jones, $74,900 for a modular home

* Ms. Rouse, $74,900 for a modular home

* Ms. McKinney, $59,000 for a double-wide mobile home.

The Castle contract is for $43,800 for a single-wide mobile home for Price.