County again participating in CDBG program this year

Sussex County will once again participate in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program this year, with the county council voicing its approval following a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

The program provides funding for a variety of activities, such as rehabilitation, demolition and housing-code enforcement, “to maintain or improve existing housing, and for the provision of infrastructure in support of housing development for low- and moderate-income persons.”

Brad Whaley, community development and housing director for Sussex County, told the council that his office applies for funding from the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development each year on behalf of the County and some of its municipalities. Whaley said that, each year, they typically they receive $1.2 million to $1.7 million.

Over the past five years, the total CDBG and HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds awarded equaled $7.1 million, with 849 households being assisted, housing 1,365 residents. Municipalities that received funding included Frankford, Selbyville, Georgetown and Milton.

In the 2015 fiscal year, Sussex County received $1,360,799 in CDBG and HOME program funding. In that fiscal year, the program assisted 127 low- to moderate-income households. Of those households, 78 percent had incomes below 50 percent of the area mean income (AMI) and 50 percent had incomes below 30 percent of the AMI.

More than 70 percent of those projects were completed by companies that qualify under Section 3 and/or WBE/MBE/VBE designations. Whaley said that, in order for households to qualify for housing rehabilitation, the property must be homeowner-occupied, must be insured or insurable, taxes must be current, and the homeowner must agree to have a lien placed on the property to secure funding.

Rehab projects have included repairing and building new handicapped-accessible ramps and bathrooms, repairing water-damaged rooms and repairing the exteriors of homes.

Whaley said that, for the 2017 fiscal year, municipalities requesting funding include Blades, Bridgeville, Georgetown and Selbyville. The County applications include Mount Joy and rural areas near Dagsboro and Millsboro.

Emergency Rehab in the 2017 fiscal year was primarily used for households without running water and heat.

Whaley said the county-wide waiting list for help is about 900 applicants, with an additional 300 in municipalities. Brandy Nauman, Sussex County’s Fair Housing compliance officer, said the wait is between five and seven years.

Whaley noted that it is a nationwide program and that Sussex County has been participating for more than 25 years.

“We’ve been very successful with emergency funding,” Councilman George Cole said. “I think it’s a very excellent program, if we can just target rehabs, instead of infrastructure. I think the benefits of rehab are outstanding.”

The council voted unanimously to apply for Community Development funds from the Delaware State Housing Authority, in accordance with appropriate regulations governing Community Development Block Grants for the State of Delaware Community Development Block Grant Program; and to authorize County Administrator Todd Lawson to certify that matching funds in excess of $165,000 will be made available upon the approval by the Delaware State Housing Authority.

“It’s great, you’re helping communities, you’re helping people,” said Council President Michael Vincent. “It’s a good thing.”