County holds public hearing on community development grants

A public hearing regarding the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program was held Tuesday before the Sussex County Council. CDBG 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, explained that Kent and Sussex counties are not big enough to request funding directly from the Department of Housing & Urban Development.

“In our case, the Housing Authority applies for the funding, and then Kent and Sussex counties apply for that funding on a competitive basis,” he explained. “The main purpose of this funding is housing-related issues.”

Whaley said the County CDBG program is in the process of putting together its funding application, and the public hearing is an opportunity for the public to speak on that application.

Sussex’s CDBG has received $6.8 million over the last five years, which has helped assist 828 households and 1,307 residents, including work involving demolition, infrastructure projects, and sewer and water hookups.

Whaley said the CDBG has worked with an advisory council made up of community leaders throughout the county, as well as the Sussex Housing Group. He also thanked the council for their ongoing financial support.

“We’ve met with a lot of mayors and town councils over the years, and they really appreciate this funding, and they understand what a valuable source it is. They always ask me to thank council for their efforts and the support they’ve given us over the years.”

Councilman George Cole said the County’s contribution to CDBG has varied over the years, and he asked County Administrator Todd Lawson if there would be anything in the upcoming budget that would provide additional funding, “because it’s a major, major problem.”

“We would certainly look from the council’s perspective and see what your direction would be,” said Lawson. “If we want additional funding from the council, we would budget that. It certainly does ebb and flow based on budget constraints. If this is a priority the council chooses to take on this year, then we can allocate more money.

“There’s also a threshold of putting more money in the budget and also how much Brad’s office can actually accomplish. In other words, to exaggerate the point, we couldn’t give a million dollars with the staffing level that he has now, because he couldn’t get to all the work that is out there with that staffing level. We’ll certainly look into it.”

Cole requested the council receive a recommendation from staff as to what would be an appropriate amount to provide CDBG in the upcoming budget.

The council unanimously approved a resolution to apply for community development funds from the Delaware State Housing Authority for the State of Delaware Community Development Block Grant Program, authorizing Lawson to “certify that matching funds in excess of $164,000 will be made available upon the approval by the Delaware State Housing Authority.”