By Tony E. Windsor
As in previous years, a representative of the Sussex County Community Development and Housing Office visited Laurel to promote the federally funded Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The primary objective of the program is to assist in preserving the housing stock in the county. Brad Whaley, Director of the Community Development Office (CDO) told the Laurel Mayor and Council during a recent council meeting that this year there is about $2 million to be divided between Kent and Sussex counties to do housing and infrastructure work.
Each year the county Community Development office tours municipalities in Sussex County to offer the funding. Laurel is one of the municipalities that have traditionally taken part in the program.
Since 1990, Laurel has received over $750,000 in rehab funds which have addressed over 100 housing rehabilitation projects in the community.
Each year the CDO attempts to address at least 100 homes with the CDBG funding. While using the funding as efficiently as possible the CDO is working to address a county-wide waiting list of over 7,800 homes.
Although the CDBG funds can be used for water and sewer infrastructure projects, the primary focus over the years has been on housing rehabilitation. Typically, the type of work that is done with the CDBG funds is installing new roofs, windows, doors and heating systems; things that speak to the physical welfare of the home's occupants. In some cases, house siding work has also been done. The basic focus of the CDBG work is to get homes up to Laurel code requirements.
According to the Sussex County Community Development Office, a 2007 Delaware Statewide Needs Assessment classifies a substandard home as one that is deficient in at least two structural systems and in need of substantial rehabilitation in order to make them structurally sound, safe, and habitable. The same report estimated there were 2,926 substandard homeowner units in Sussex County (5.3% of all units) that would require $30,000 or more to bring up to code. There are also 3,398 households Òat-riskÓ due to their inability to pay average rents or afford, on the average, the repairs needed to rehabilitate a typical substandard home.
The Sussex County CDHD applies for funding on behalf of local municipalities who request assistance.