Sussex County Council members on Tuesday, Feb. 2, approved an application to be sent to the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) in an appeal for funding for the Community Development Block Grant program.
The county routinely submits applications on behalf of local municipalities, allowing them and the county itself to vie for about $2 million in funding coming to DSHA from the federal Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD) for housing rehabilitation, demolition, infrastructure and other related projects.
This year, 10 Sussex municipalities requested the county to apply for funding on their behalf, in a competitive application process that uses an outside review panel. Projects are selected based on their ability to benefit low- to moderate-income citizens, aiming to get the “maximum bang for the buck.”
County officials said housing rehabilitation is their top priority this year, focusing on owner-occupied homes. Communities are eligible to apply for funding if they have four or more homes to rehab, and officials noted that some municipalities are starting not to be eligible because they no longer meet that criteria.
It’s a turn that what was described as “a good thing,” as it means the towns have benefitted well from the program in prior years.
Demolition projects – such as tearing down vacant homes not suitable for rehabilitation – are also eligible, as are infrastructure projects, in which a 10 percent match by the municipality (or county government) is required. Funding for administration for the projects is also eligible to bep paid with portions of the funding granted.
Locally, in Selbyville, $180,000 is being requested, with 10 homes on the list for rehabilitation. The Polly Branch area near Selbyville is also applying for about $100,000 in funding.
Other municipalities filing for funding under the county application include Blades (rehab), Bridgeville (rehab and demolition), Georgetown (infrastructure), Greenwood (rehab), Laurel (rehab), Milford (rehab), Milton (rehab), Seaford (rehab), Coverdale (rehab), West Rehoboth (rehab) and Mount Joy.
The county will also be applying for $390,000 to rehab 20 homes in its area of control, as well as for funding to aid with sewer hookup costs for residents who can’t afford those costs. The county is applying for the full $1.1 million in funding that it can apply for under a single application, and combined with the municipal requests, the application asks for $2.524 million in funding and matching funds.
Sussex received $1.195 million in 2008, some $280,000 came from stimulus funding. About 60 percent of those projects have been completed, with the remaining under contract or now being written up. Officials said the projects have resulted in between 30 and 35 jobs being created each year. There has been $17.9 million spent through the program in the last 10 years and 1,400 households assisted.
Though about $2.5 million has been requested, officials said they expect to get only about half of that requested amount, since the grant funding will be awarded on a competitive basis in a process that also includes requests from Kent County and its municipalities.
The County Council on Feb. 2 approved the list of applications for the program, on a 4-0 vote with Councilman Sam Wilson absent.