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Hertford Co. leaders address lack of affordable housing

WINTON – The HOME Consortium Grant Program is an idea still on the drawing board, but that didn’t prevent the Hertford County Board of Commissioners expressing an interest in becoming a partner in an effort to address affordable housing needs.

At their regularly scheduled meeting here earlier this month, the board voted unanimously in favor of moving forward in the implementation of the program, which will also serve Bertie, Northampton, Halifax, and Martin counties. Its purpose will be to leverage federal dollars to assist eligible citizens of the five counties in finding affordable and safe housing.

The local consortium is linked to the East Carolina University Division of Research, Economic Development, and Engagement and the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union Foundation.

“The idea of this program is still conceptual, so there’s no commitment here right now other than agreeing to move forward with the program,” Hertford County Manager David Cotton told commissioners at Monday’s meeting.

Cotton said ECU and SECU want to partner with the aforementioned counties with a goal to increase the availability of affordable housing.

“It’s a multi-pronged strategy; there are many ways we can go about addressing this issue,” Cotton noted. “One way is to tap into HUD [U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development] funds. Those federal dollars can be leveraged for our benefit.”

Cotton explained that it initially appears there would be an annual recurring amount of $657,000 for the region. There would be a 25 percent local match for that amount of funding. The local match, he said, will be divided – based on population – between the five-county consortium.

Board Chairman Ronald Gatling asked how the money would be divided up between the counties.

Cotton answered that decision will be left to the consortium members.

“There are suggestions from ECU on that,” Cotton said. “You could look at each county taking turns gaining that entire amount ($657,000) once every five years or divide it up annually based on population.”

A housing study conducted by ECU showed that a family in Hertford County would need an annual income of $28,320 to afford a modest-priced two-bedroom apartment with a monthly lease of $708. However, statistics show that based on the annual salary of a Hertford County family, they can only afford to pay $501 per month to rent an apartment.

That same study showed that the estimated number of housing units needed to address housing needs in Hertford County over the next five years include the following;

Rental units for families – 55

Rental housing for senior citizens – 30

Rental housing for those with special needs – 10

Affordable housing for first-time homebuyers – 15

Rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing units – 200

Existing rental dwellings in need of rehabilitation – 125.

Other data showed there are 6,017 homes in the county built before 1979. There are 15 homes in the county that lack complete plumbing and 34 without an identified source of heating fuel.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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