Housing assistance program closes last grant


A New Hanover County program that assists low-income homeowners with needed housing improvements faces an uncertain future after closing out its last grant.

The $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, awarded in 2010, was closed following a public hearing during an April 7 New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“The CDBG housing program has been eliminated [statewide]so this most likely will be the county’s last housing assistance project,” said Wanda Coston, county community development planner.

Coston explained in a presentation to commissioners how the funds were used to reconstruct and rehabilitate five low-income, owner-occupied houses. The grant funded rehabilitation of two houses, relocation and construction for one house, and reconstruction of two houses.

Both rehabilitated houses needed new roofs. In one rehabilitated house, the homeowner was living without any heat prior to receiving assistance.

Cape Fear Community College partnered with the county for one of the reconstruction projects, in which landscaping students completed a rain garden for the homeowners.

Vice Chairwoman Beth Dawson commended Coston on work completed with the grant. She attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the house completed in partnership with the community college and said the homeowner and students were proud of their work.

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr. expressed disappointment for the program’s likely termination.

“It’s a sad thing to know we have people in our county living in third-world conditions. … I’m sorry this grant program is going away, because I know it’s helped so many people,” Barfield said.

Coston noted the housing assistance program could continue with another funding source.

The cost to complete the five projects amounted to $443,743. Coston said the remaining funds will be returned to the state.

The planning and inspections department’s community development program offers other services reliant upon grant funding, like disaster relief and water and sewage connection.

Another request from the planning and inspections department was heard during the April 7 meeting.

Ken Vafier, planning and zoning supervisor, requested amendments to the county subdivision ordinance to ensure confirmed and approved conservation resource lines are valid for regulatory purposes in conservation overlay districts (COD).

COD delineations are drawn to protect environmental and cultural resources. COD lines are considered in addition to other zoning laws.

Vafier said conflicts have arisen from discrepancy between recorded COD lines and the actual lines on property being developed.

The amendments were unanimously approved by commissioners.

The commissioners also unanimously approved a proclamation recognizing April 2014 as Sexual Assault Activism Month.

The proposal was submitted by the Rape Crisis Center at Coastal Horizons Center. The center served more than 500 new sexual violence victims in the past year.

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