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Lewes, Delaware
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March 15, 2013     Cape Gazette
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March 15, 2013

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Mix of funds goes to fix Sussex houses By Ron MacArthur A 2007 study revealed there are nearly 3,000 substandard owner-occupied homes in Sus- sex County- more than 5 percent of all homes - that need repairs totaling $30,000 or more just to bring the homes up to code. An- other 3,400 homeowners are at risk of not having enough money county's 650-page application, said Brad Whaley, director of county community development and housing. Additional funding from the county budget provides money for emergency repairs. The county has a waiting list of i,200 houses - 400 in towns and 800 in unincorporated areas - in need of repairs. Annual funding covers more than 100 projects each year; about 75 percent of to afford needed repairs, last year's work is complete. To Every year, staff in Sussex qualify for the program, a house County's community develop- must be owner-occupied, taxes ment and housing department must be current and it must be the homeowner's primary resi- dence, In addition, homeowners must be in low- to moderate- income levels to qualify. The whittle down a long list of houses needing repair. Thousands of of Sussex County houses would continue to have leaking roofs and windows, plumbing prob- lems and substandard heating department has a $25,000 cap on systems without the county's block-grant projects and a $7,500 repair program, maximum on emergency repair Sussex County is entering the projects. final stages of another Dela- In the Cape Region, the county ware Community Block Grant has applied for $80,000 for five cycle. Over the past 10 years, housing rehabilitations each in the county has used $12 million West Rehoboth, Mount Joy and in block-grant funding to repair . Coolspring. This year's applica- more than 1,600 homes, tion also includes $105,000 for six This year, the county has projects in Milton. applied for $2.8 million to re- The county is still repairing habilitate 137 homes, provide 20 damage - especially to roofs - sewer hookups and assist with a caused by the twin blizzards in sidewalk project in Georgetown. 2010, said Mike ]ones, project About half of the requested fund- manager. ing is likely to be awarded to the The housing department will county after the Delaware State have an additional $150,000 in Housing Authority reviews the emergency rehabilitation fund- ing thanks to funds remaining from a budget surplus, "This will be the most money in any one year we've ever had to work with," Whaley said. "If the economy improves, I hope we can make more money available," said Councilwoman Joan Dearer, D-Rehoboth Beach. Staff in the county's hous- ing department coordinates all projects, including those in 13 municipalities. For the first time, $30,000 will be used to conduct a planning study to determine where hous- ing rehabilitation needs are the greatest, Whaley said. The county's community development and housing de- partment conducted a series of public hearings on the block- grant application in each of the county's municipalities followed by a Feb. 19 county-wide public hearing at the Feb. 19 county council meeting. During the hearing, Ken Smith, director of the Delaware Hous- ing Coalition, commended the county for its ongoing rehabilita- tion work. He said there are a large number of Sussex County home- Cape Oazette owners - especially those on fixed incomes - who have trou- ble maintaining their houses. lone said repairs to a house go beyond assisting one family. "It ends up helping the whole com- munity," he said. For those who don't qualify for the block-grant program, the county's housing department coordinates funding assistance for homeowners and landlords through a 3 percent housing re- habilitation loan program. For more information on the county's housing department, phone 855-7777. RON MACARTHURPHOTO ASA SUBCONTRACTOR for the county block-grant program, a crew from McMillan Construction puts in a new ramp at a home along Fisher Road be- tween Milton and Lewes. Workers are (I-r)Redgia McMillan, Bobby McMil- lan and Derek Thomas.