Home repair program approved

Published 5:50 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

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GATESVILLE – In an effort to help low-income families/individuals with emergency repairs to their homes, the Gates County Board of Commissioners will partner with the Albemarle Commission in submitting an application for grant funding.

The funds, if approved, will come from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. If certain criteria is met, the loans to those needing home repairs will be forgiven.

The county commissioners learned more details about the repair program at their most recent meeting on Feb. 16. Dr. Althea Riddick, chair of the commissioners, said the county has previously received a number of grants that allowed them to assist citizens for residential repairs. Applications for the next round of grants must be submitted by the end of February.

“The clock is ticking [to submit an application] and we needed to help our citizens, those who qualify, with their home repairs,” Riddick remarked.

Riddick said she reached out to the Albemarle Commission, an organization that assists counties/municipalities in northeastern North Carolina with planning and development.

Michael Ervin, Executive Director of the Albemarle Commission presented the board with several options.

One was for a regional application where $294,000 (maximum amount) would be requested to cover all 10 counties that comprise the Albemarle Commission. If approved, that grant would be divided equally among the counties ($26,400 each), which would drastically reduce the total number of homes that could be repaired.

Option number two is where Gates County submits an individual application for grant funding up to $132,000. Based on an average cost of home repairs of $12,000, the county, if it is awarded the full amount, can assist 11 homeowners.

In that option, the Albemarle Commission will, if asked, prepare and submit the funding application and manage/oversee the repairs.

“The funding is awarded to the county,” Ervin explained. “We bill you for the work that gets done.”

Option three is to join with another county and submit a joint application. The max amount is $264,000 (or $132,000 per county), meaning 11 homes per county (at an average repair cost of $12,000 each) could be served.

“The only difference here and option number two is that one of the two counties in this partnership could agree to manage the program instead of us having to do it,” Ervin noted.

Ervin promoted the Albemarle Commission by saying, “we have experience in doing these programs, we know the direction to head in.”

“We will manage the program’s criteria, making sure the individuals who apply [for home repairs] qualify,” Ervin said, adding that the funding is for emergency repairs, not major renovations.

He said that deferred/forgiven loans of up to $12,000 per home for emergency repairs are available to those ages 62-and-over, military veterans, single parents, those handicapped or disabled, and for households with five-or-more residents. The home must be owner-occupied and the household income cannot exceed 50 percent of Gates County’s median income ($64,300).

“We will manage the actual construction,” Ervin added. “That takes some of the burden off of you.”

Ervin said the Albemarle Commission keeps a list of contractors they have worked with in the past for such projects. The Gates County Commissioners were encouraged to add names to that list.

Commissioner Jack Owens posed a funding scenario, saying, under options two and three, what if some of the homes required $5,000 or less in repairs.

“If that happens, can we use our overall pot of money to serve more homeowners in need of repairs,” Owens asked.

“You cannot go beyond $12,000 per house without specific approval,” Ervin answered. “The same applies on the other end. Say you have only $5,000 in repairs at one home; you take that other $7,000 and find a house that needs that amount of repairs.”

Owens added that he felt option two was the best choice for Gates County.

Gates County Manager Tim Wilson asked about the administrative costs to oversee the project. Irvin said there were costs, up to $1,000 per home, but the majority of that is linked to attorney fees (a deed of trust is needed in these types of projects).

“On occasion we have lucked out and had an attorney to provide their services pro bono,” Ervin said.

Pitt Godwin, who serves the Gates County Board of Commissioners as their legal counsel, said he and his law firm would provide their services free of charge for this project, drawing a round of applause from those attending the meeting.

On a motion from Commissioner Linda Hofler and a second from Commissioner Ray Freeman, the board unanimously approved option number two.

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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