Laurel agrees to accept help for housing rehab

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 ᅭat-riskᅮ 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.

CDBG funding has been used for rehabilitating, demolition, and water/sewer hookups in communities including Blades, Coverdale Crossroads, Ellendale, Laurel, Milford, Pine Town, Rural Selbyville, and West Rehoboth.
Last year, according to Whaley, 14 homes in Sussex County and 10 homes in Kent County were addressed using the CDBG funding. In the past 10 years, Laurel has received about $774,000 to rehab 60 homes. There are currently still about 30 homes on Laurel's waiting list.

Following Whaley's presentation, the Laurel Mayor and Council approved having the CDHD making application on behalf of Laurel for funds to be used for rehabilitation of housing within the town.

The guidelines for receiving housing rehabilitation funds from the CDBG funding include:
Be a Sussex County property owner and permanent resident of Sussex County
Be unable to make the necessary improvements or secure the necessary credit from other sources
Have current taxes
Have an insured or insurable home
Sign a non-interest bearing lien
There are also income guidelines based on family size. The average grant amount is about $15,000.

For those people who may not be eligible for the CDBG funds, the Sussex County Community Development and Housing Division also offers low interest (3%) loans made available through the State of Delaware's Revolving Funds.

For owner-occupied residences, the loan amounts range from $2,000 to $35,000 per home. The term of the loan is 15 years, with a consistent three percent interest rate. There are application fees, as well as certain restrictions on owner income and home eligibility.

For more information about the CDBG fund program contact the Community Development and Housing Division at 302-855-7777 or the Town of Laurel at 302-875-2277. Anyone interested can also visit the CDGD at www.sussexcountyde.gov.

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