MOREHEAD CITY — Low-income town residents hit by Hurricane Florence may be eligible to receive free home repairs and other improvements if the town is awarded a Rural Economic Development Division Community Development Block Grant.
Staff plan to apply for the grant, which is offered through the N.C. Department of Commerce’s North Carolina Neighborhood Revitalization Program, by the Wednesday, July 17 deadline. The city held the first of two required public hearings on the grant application Tuesday during the city council’s regular monthly meeting at the municipal building on S. 8th Street.
“I’m very pleased to see us pursuing this grant, it’s been a while and we’ve been successful in the past, it’s been a huge investment in some communities,” Mayor Jerry Jones said.
According to N.C. Neighborhood Program, the grant offers non-entitlement municipalities and counties throughout the state the opportunity to tailor a project to meet community needs, primarily for low- and moderate-income residents, with special consideration given to storm-impacted areas. North Carolina received about $47.9 million in community development block grant funds last year, of which $10 million will be made available for the N.C. Neighborhood Program.
Morehead City could receive up to $750,000 in block grant funds if it is approved for the program. Planning Director Sandi Watkins gave an overview of the program to the city council Tuesday.
“The program is primarily geared toward assisting low- to moderate-income residents, as well as addressing slum or blight conditions, with special consideration given for areas impacted by Hurricane Florence,” she said.
For the purposes of the grant, to be considered low- or moderate-income, household income must be at or below 80% of the area’s median income. In Carteret County, for a family of four that equates to $53,750.
Those who may be interested in participating in the community project should contact city staff by Wednesday, June 19 to determine specific eligibility requirements. Ms. Watkins said depending on the inquiries received, staff may be able to extend that deadline.
A range of projects may be carried out using grant funds, including emergency home repairs and rehabilitation projects. To be considered for a project, staff will conduct an intake process to evaluate the condition of a home.
“We would check the foundation, floor, roof, plumbing, electric, HVAC, interior wall, windows, doors and egress systems,” Ms. Watkins said.
One resident spoke during the public hearing on the grant program Tuesday. Avery Street resident William Britt questioned whether the low-income threshold is appropriate, but Ms. Watkins clarified the threshold is set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Morehead City officials have no say in it.
“This (grant) is for incomes equal to or less than 80% of the median family income of the metropolitan area. Carteret County that equates to $53,750,” Mr. Britt said. “I know we would like to see that be absolutely true, but I think it’s very inflated.”
As part of the application process, the city is required to work with a consulting firm with community development block grant administration experience. To that end, the city council approved a contract in the amount of $3,500 with Wilmington-based Holland Consulting Planners, which was the lowest of three bids the city received for the work.
If the city is chosen for the grant, the cost of working with Holland will be covered by the grant funds. Otherwise, the city will pay the cost out-of-pocket with a cap of $3,500.
No formal action regarding the grant application was required of the city council Tuesday, and a second public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, July 9 during the council’s regular monthly meeting. During that meeting, staff will outline some of the specifics of the project and review the complete application prior to the July 17 submittal deadline.
For more information about the N.C. Neighborhood Program, including to find out if you may be eligible to participate, contact the Morehead City planning department at 252-726-6848, ext. 121.
Contact Elise Clouser at firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.