by Terry Rogers
On Monday, October 28, Milford City Council heard a presentation from Brad Whaley, Director of the Community Block Grant Program in Sussex County and Frank Paquette, Supervisor of the same program in Kent County, explaining how the program benefits low- to moderate-income property owners. The program is funded by the Delaware State Housing Authority.
“This program allows those who are at or below 80 percent of the median income for the area to complete housing projects,” Whaley explained. “This includes small infrastructure projects, demolitions, sewer and water hookups. We perform a lot of projects to address code violations, such as basic repairs, roofing, heating, electrical upgrades, insulation, etc.”
In 2018, Milford residences in Sussex County received $110,000 and the program expects to expend $70,000 in the same area for 2019.
“Delaware State Housing Authority requires that we submit four verified homeowners in order to have the location designated as a target area,” Whaley said. “This could be a city, a town, a mobile home park or even a large neighborhood. When we cannot identify a target area, the repairs fall under what HUD calls scattered sites. Getting funding for scattered sites is a little more difficult which is why we want to create a target site.”
Currently, Sussex County has 15 property owners on a waiting list for the program but Kent County only has two. Because Kent County only has two waiting for assistance, Milford is not currently identified as a target site. Paquette explained that they are looking for additional property owners to apply for the program in order to identify Milford as a target site.
“When a property is identified, whether because of a code violation inspection or another reason, we send someone out to help the property owner complete the application,” Paquette said. “Our application is 40 pages long and it can be very intimidating. We help them fill it out and get the documentation they need to verify income, verify the number of people in the home, subsidies and more. This is completely income-based so we do have quite a bit of information to complete which is why the application is so long.” Paquette stated that HUD requires that lead-based paint, historical property and other guidelines also be followed.
When a property receives a Community Block Grant, HUD requires that a lien be placed on the property. Paquette explained that there are no payments and no interest added to the lien. The lien is only paid if the property owner passes away or sells their home. The grant can be transferred to someone else who qualifies as low- to moderate-income.
“In the past, the lien was for 15 years if the project cost more than $25,000,” Whaley said. “This year, if the project is less than $20,000, the lien is for five years and if it is $25,000, it is for ten years. The lien reduces each year so at the end of the five or ten year period, the mortgage is released.”
City Council voted six to zero to support the Community Development Block Grant Program. Those who want more information should contact Rob Pierce, City Planner, at 302-424-8396, Extension 1311. Applications are generally released in October and due to be returned by January. A proposed list of projects are selected in April and the Plan is finalized in May, preceding a July 1st program year start.