Housing grants discussed in Selbyville

Al Phillips, a Sussex County project manager handling Community Development Block Grant applications, visited Selbyville on Monday night to introduce its residents to the program, which helps low- to moderate-income residents.

Most money spent in Sussex County has been used for housing rehabilitations, several of which since the mid-1990s have helped Selbyville families. According to documents presented Monday, the county has helped secure almost $700,000 on 104 jobs in Selbyville since 1995, on rehabs, sewer and water hookups, and infrastructure needs.

“It’s been a good program,” Selbyville Mayor Clifton C. Murray said Monday. “We’ve had some pretty good projects out of this. It helps people who don’t have the money to fix up their homes.”

The block grants from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are handed out each year to assist low- to moderate-income families, and those grants are administered in Sussex County by the Delaware State Housing Authority. Sussex County officials apply for the grant annually on behalf of its residents and residents of municipalities within the county.

A family of one must make $30,850 or less, be a permanent resident of Sussex County and meet other qualifications to qualify for the grant. A family of four must make $44,100 or less. Some $2 million in grant money is available for Kent and Sussex counties this year through the federal government, according to Sussex officials.

The Town of Selbyville sent an application to Sussex County last month, applying for grants for 18 homes within the town. Selbyville code officials — who regularly visit the homes that violate town code but whose owners don’t have money to fix the problems — administer the program annually for their residents who meet the criteria. Grants awarded through the program in Sussex County have averaged $15,000.

“Most people we designate are tickled to death with it,” Selbyville Town Manager Gary Taylor said earlier. “It’s a win-win.”

If a grant is awarded for a housing rehab, a lien put on the home does not have to be paid off if the resident stays in that home for a certain period of time. Residents 62 or older only have to stay five years, while those younger than 62 will have the lien for 10 years. Phillips said that he has not yet seen the county go after money from a grant winner.

“We want the homeowner to live in the home,” Phillips told residents in attendance Monday. “If we’re going to invest $15,000 there, we want you to stay there.”

Selbyville residents received $87,500 last year, according to the county documents, for five housing rehabilitations, and received $75,000 for the two years previous. It has been a productive town for the grants, partly because of its meticulous application process, according to William Lecates, the director of Sussex County’s department of Community Development and Housing.

Neighboring towns have also done well in recent years. Five Frankford households collectively received $75,000 last year for housing “rehabs” — mostly renovations — and Dagsboro low-income residents received $75,000 collectively last year for assistance in paying water hookup fees, according to Lecates. The county is applying for similar funds this year for low- to moderate-income Ocean View residents, who are expecting public water in the coming year.

Qualified applicants — those who meet the monetary and other qualifications — must wait in a waiting list, which is notably much shorter for those in towns than in the unincorporated county. The county’s list, for instance, is about 800 residents long, as opposed to one that might be five residents long in Frankford, according to Lecates.

“It’s been a pretty fair system,” Lecates said in an earlier interview. “We’re going to put in what the communities ask us and put in from the citizens, and let the review panel shuffle out and see what the priority is.”

For more information on the details of the state-administered grant, visit www.hud.gov on the Internet.