Sussex holding grant hearings


Selbyville officials recently sent a list of roughly 15 homes to the Delaware State Housing Authority. On the list are regular violators of town code who, according to Selbyville Town Manager Gary Taylor, have resisted requests from town officials to fix floors, kitchens and leaky windows and roofs because of a lack of money.

Now, as a part of that list, those homeowners will be eligible for Community Development Block Grants from the federal government.

“Most of the people we designate are tickled to death with it,” Taylor said. “Over the years, it’s probably been at least $1 million that they’ve spent (in Selbyville) helping people fix their houses up. It’s a win-win.”

The Delaware State Housing Authority-administered grants are available to benefit low- to moderate-income through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a variety of public and private projects. Grant money can be used for construction of neighborhood centers and improvements to public buildings, for instance.

Most grants handed out locally, however, 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 said. (For more information on the details of the state-administered grant, visit www.hud.gov.)

Officials from Sussex County’s Community Development and Housing Office, which applies for the grants annually on behalf of county residents, will hold a host of public hearings starting next week to familiarize local residents with the process and accept applications.

The first of the 11 meetings will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4, at Frankford Town Hall. Officials will hold another local meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11, at Selbyville Town Hall.

The 7 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9, in Sussex County Council Chambers in Georgetown, will be the final public hearing regarding the grants.

According to William Lecates, the director of the county’s community development and housing office, $2 million in state-administered grant aid is available for low- to moderate-income households in Kent and Sussex counties this year. Collectively, he added, county residents received about $1.2 million last year — with residents of towns more likely to receive money because of the hefty waiting list for residents in the unincorporated areas.

After county officials review applications, they will send a list to the state housing authority. An outside panel will review each application before awarding grants sometime next spring.

“It’s been a pretty fair system,” said Lecates, who described the county end of the process as first-come, first-served.

Qualified applicants are selected for participation in the county application by their place on the waiting list. There are roughly 800 names on the unincorporated list, Lecates said, as opposed to about five on Frankford’s. “(In the) last few years, we’ve managed to do 100-some jobs,” he said.

Five Frankford households collectively received $75,000 last year for housing “rehabs” — mostly renovations — and Dagsboro low-income residents received $75,000 collectively 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.

Selbyville residents received $75,000 last year and have received the same or more for the last five years, making Selbyville a productive town partly because of its meticulous applicant submission process, Lecates said.

“Selbyville is very proactive,” Lecates said. “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. I’ve been known to apply for $2 million or $3 million” in assistance, Lecates said.