County inks $7.9 million housing grant

Jan. 25—A contract signed last week will provide $7 million to build low to moderate income housing for many of the Haywood County residents who were displaced by Tropical Storm Fred in 2021.

Flooding from the storm damaged 563 homes in Haywood, and a year later, there were still 161 families seeking long-term shelter.

A $7.95 million federal grant was inked Jan. 19 to address the unmet needs. The money is to be used for "affordable housing activities to meet remaining unmet recovery needs caused by federally declared disasters, including Tropical Storm Fred."

The grant is through the USDA Housing and Urban Development Community Development Program and will be administered by the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency, a division of the N.C. Division of Public Safety.

The plan limits administrative costs to 5% and flood mitigation to 15% of the grant amount. These costs include everything from a study commissioned before the funds were available to determining the best way to prevent future flooding in an area.

All of the funding beyond this — $7 million — will be targeted toward tangible housing projects to benefit those with low to moderate incomes.

The plan defines affordable housing as that which does not exceed 30% of household income.

The county has hired a grant compliance officer to oversee federal and state funds related to the flood to ensure all rules are followed so county taxpayers won't be on the hook for non-reimbursable expenses.

What's allowable?

The multi-page "scope of work" section, a small portion of the 110-page grant agreement, spells out the terms of using the grant funds.

The stated purpose is to provide money to augment public and private financing for the construction of affordable rental housing units and home ownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income persons.

Housing proposals may include assisting with tax-credit projects, multi-family developments, property acquisition and renovation and repair of residential properties. Another section allows funds to be used to help make down payments on a home and for rental assistance.

The federal funds may also be used to provide grants and loans to those developing housing opportunities. Any projects must be reviewed by the county and then submitted to the NCOOR before any choices are made or before proceeding with projects.

The county must submit a final program budget, including project-specific information, within 180 days of signing the agreement.

The county is responsible for managing the program, a task assigned to David Francis, the county's community and economic development director.

The $7 million must be spent on projects that will be "substantially complete" by December 2027.