Grants bring new homes

Published 12:34 am Friday, February 11, 2011

Staff Writer

Beaufort County and the Town of Belhaven have received $500,000 apiece to demolish run-down homes and replace them with new homes.
Beaufort County will use its $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to demolish and rebuild five deteriorating houses.
Belhaven will use its $500,000 to clear out and replace four “severely dilapidated dwellings,” reads a news release from the office of Gov. Beverly Perdue.
“We did the work a long time ago. It’s nice to have it come true,” Belhaven Town Manager Guinn Leverett said of the town’s grant application.
The homes identified by the county as being eligible for the program are located in rural, unincorporated areas near Bath, Aurora and Washington.
“This is basically what’s considered a reconstruction project,” said Reed Whitesell, community-development manager for Holland Consulting Planners, which helped with the county’s grant application.
The targeted houses belong to low- to moderate-income owners, Whitesell explained. The structures met a series of criteria to qualify for attention under the program, he related.
“It’s a very objective rating process,” Whitesell commented.
The demolition and construction work will be done by private contractors, according to Whitesell. The contractors will be chosen through a bid process, he said.
Whitesell said the aim here is to demolish each old house and build a new one alongside it, allowing the homeowner to endure construction without being dislocated.
If a homeowner’s lot isn’t large enough to warrant this approach, funds could be used to relocate the home’s residents temporarily, he said.
The houses targeted under this program are awarded points based on structural problems, Whitesell pointed out.
“Two or three of them are as bad as any I’ve ever seen in Beaufort County or Hyde County,” he said.
There are more homes on the application list than the county can accommodate at one time, he indicated.
“We’ve got probably well over 100 people on the application for assistance list we maintain for flood recovery and scattered site assistance,” Whitesell shared.
The county competed with other local governments for this scattered-site CDBG money, said County Manager Paul Spruill.
This money assists homeowners and residential building contractors, Spruill said.
In the news release, staff in the governor’s office said $14 million in CBDGs had been awarded to 26 local governments, including Belhaven and Beaufort County.
“Improving infrastructure and housing in our neediest communities, while creating jobs is a win-win for all involved,” Perdue said in the release.
In 2009, the state received some federal CDBG money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Whitesell said.
The county applied for a share of those funds, but didn’t get them.
The state later agreed to award the grant in another round of recovery-tied CDBGs, Whitesell said, adding one idea behind these particular grants is to help stimulate the local economy by putting contractors to work.
The county expects to get another $400,000 in CDBG funds soon, and notice of that award “should come literally any day now,” Whitesell said.
The $400,000 will be employed to demolish and rebuild three additional houses in the county’s jurisdiction.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal was thankful the town secured its grant, which will apply to four households in the western part of town.
“Those recipients are in the western part of town which historically has been neglected with these types of grants,” O’Neal said.
The qualifications for beneficiaries of the grants are poverty-level income and substandard housing, he said.
“They are people who are truly needy of some assistance,” O’Neal concluded.