County receives $1.056M in grants

Low-income homeowners outside Selbyville and in Ocean View will receive funding through the federal government’s community development block grant program this year to fix up their homes or connect to central water service, according to county officials.

Several residents living off Polly Branch Road outside of Selbyville will receive funding to rehabilitate homes and up to $45,000 will be available for low-income Ocean View residents to hook up to central water service.

Throughout Sussex County, residents received $1.056 million through the community development program, modestly less than what the county received through the program last year. Only about $1.9 million was available this year for Kent and Sussex counties to share. Bill Lecates, director of the Sussex Community Development and Housing department, said Sussex has received more than Kent County in CDBG grants in at least the last eight years.

“We’re very happy with our appropriation,” Lecates said. “We try to get more than Kent County and get as much as we can.”

Lecates and others in his department apply for the grants on behalf of residents in unincorporated and incorporated areas of the county annually. County residents collectively received $1.16 million last year and have received more than $19 million in the last 11 years.

No residents in or around Frankford or Dagsboro will receive help through the program this year and for the first time in six years, incorporated Selbyville did not receive any money through the program. They had received at least $75,000 in each of the last five years. But despite being blanked this year, town officials remained gracious.

“They’ve done a lot for us,” said Gary Taylor, Selbyville town manager. “I’m sure we’ll get considered again.”

Lecates was surprised by Selbyville’s fate.

“I personally felt they had a good shot, but it was explained in the oral presentation that they might have to wait a year,” Lecates said. “We’ve really poured a lot of money in there.”

The program in Delaware is administered through the Delaware State Housing Authority, where a group of panelists review each application and award funding based on need and merit. Only low-income homeowners are eligible to receive funding through the federal Housing and Urban Development program.

Most grants handed out locally are used to renovate low-income homes that consistently violate housing code but whose owners do not have the money to personally pay for renovations, officials have said. Of the 206 grant requests in the 2007 application, 171 were for rehabilitation — housing renovation projects — and 35 were for assistance paying water or sewer hookup fees. Ocean View-area residents have also received funding to hook-up to central sewer service in recent years.

Lecates and the county asked for $3.2 million in assistance in the hefty 2007 application, a number that dramatically exceeded the less than $2 million Kent and Sussex counties had to share. Lecates said county officials do not rule out meritorious projects despite knowing that many will left unfunded after being reviewed in Dover by housing authority officials because of limited funding.

“We go to every community, and go to public hearings and kind of listen to what the towns and the citizens want as a priority,” Lecates said. “We do every application and take it up. We don’t cut anybody on our own. We let the review panels do the cuts.”