Keep asking

Published 12:32 pm Saturday, November 17, 2007

By Staff
Washington’s decision to accept an $850,000 Community Development Block Grant to improve a neighborhood and rehabilitate homes of low-income and moderate-income residents is another step in the right direction.
The city has a history in recent years of using grant money to improve existing housing and provide affordable housing to its residents.
The city is beginning a new project, one aimed at improving substandard housing and infrastructure in an area of West Seventh Street between Market and Respess streets and an area along West Sixth Street from Bridge Street to Van Norden Street.
The project calls for work on five severely deteriorated houses in the West Seventh Street area. It also calls for replacing a 4-inch water line with an 8-inch water line, replacing a substandard sewer line and resurfacing the street.
In the West Sixth Street area, the project calls for rehabilitating five severely deteriorated houses. It also calls for replacing a 2-inch water line with an 8-inch water line, replacing a substandard sewer line and resurfacing the street. The project look to combine seven vacant lots so three new housing units can be built in the area.
That’s going to be money well-spent in an area that deserves rehabilitation. The improvements should result in property values increasing in those areas, generating more revenue for the city. Revenue that could be spent on more improvements to the area.
When Bobby Roberson, the city’s director of planning and development, discussed the project with the City Council in October, Mayor Judy Meier Jennette said the city should encourage homeownership in the project areas. She’s right.
Homeowners tend to take better care of their homes than people who rent houses. The more homeowners in a neighborhood, the better off that neighborhood likely will be when it comes to its appearance, reducing crime and developing a sense of community. By helping people in the project areas improve their residences, owned or rented, the city is helping improve itself.
The project also shows the city wants to improve other areas, not just downtown.
Housing rehabilitation projects in the city provide work for area contractors. That helps the local economy. Those contractors, more than likely, buy the materials in the area they need for such projects, another boost to the local economy.
When it seeks such grant funding, the city often puts itself into a competitive situation with other municipal and county governments seeking money to rehabilitate houses in their jurisdictions. This year, North Carolina received over $43 million in Community Development Block Grant funds. After allowing for administrative and technical assistance, about $42.5 million in funds will be awarded through competition or on a noncompetitive basis.
The $850,000 grant given to Washington was awarded on a competitive basis. That means the city demonstrated to the state that it has significant needs that should be met when it comes to substandard housing. With each housing rehabilitation grant the city obtains, it takes a step closer toward reducing the number of substandard housing units in the city.
Perhaps there will come a day when the city no longer needs housing rehabilitation grants.
Until that day comes, Washington should continue to apply for such grants. Better housing throughout the city makes for a better city.