Accomack officials vote to seek housing grants

ACCOMACK, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- Accomack County officials after a dozen years are turning their attention back to the problem of the many county residents who live in substandard housing.

Accomack County "is one of the poverty-stricken areas in the state of Virginia," said Supervisor C. Reneta Major at the Board of Supervisors' August meeting.

"If we have monies that could help communities, I just don't think money should lie dormant," Major said.

It was Major who at a previous meeting asked staff to look into why the county has not pursued government funding for housing improvements for more than a decade.

"It does need to be revisited," Major said.

David Annis of the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission at the county's request forwarded information about the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, funding for which originates at the federal level and is then passed down by the states to rural areas.

The projects funded for the most part must show benefits to low- and moderate-income residents, his memorandum said.

Accomack used CDBG funds for housing projects starting in the early 1980s and continuing up until 2005, "when the focus turned toward infrastructure and economic development efforts at Wallops," the memorandum said.

A resolution the Board of Supervisors adopted in 2005 listed communities that at the time were considered priorities to benefit from future grants. The resolution also authorized the grant application for Accomack Manor Apartments near Parksley.

The Community Development Block Grant program paid for $8.5 million of the cost for housing improvement projects that totaled $16.4 million in Accomack County between 1982 and 2005, according to the memorandum.

Past projects funded through the program range from Whitesville — where 41 housing units were built or rehabilitated in a 1982 project at a cost of $795,000 — to Metompkin — where 20 housing units were built or rehabilitated and streets were improved in 2005, at a total cost of $1.3 million.

During the period, a total of 367 housing units either were built or rehabilitated using the federal money and matching funds.

The last project completed was in Metompkin — where six new houses were built to replace ones that could not be rehabilitated; another half dozen homes were repaired; and water and sewer utilities were installed.

The list of priorities for future improvements given in the 2005 resolution was, in order: Savagetown/Cats Bridge; Locust Mont; Metompkin; Accomack Manor; Graysville; Wishart's Point; East Horntown; and Gospel Temple Road.

The next four projects remaining undone on that list are Graysville, Wishart's Point, East Horntown and Gospel Temple Road, according to Mike Mason, Accomack County administrator.

"We were doing this on a regular basis — what happened?" asked Supervisor Donald L. Hart Jr.

"It was Wallops that happened," Annis said.

Mason said a needs assessment "would be particularly advantageous for us"  given the amount of time that has passed since the last project was undertaken.

In the past, the list of projects county officials wanted to pursue was not necessarily based on data, Annis said.

The agency could use a planning grant to conduct "windshield surveys" of communities with substandard housing and to meet with community leaders, study income levels and assess the number of families that would be served by a housing project, he said.

"I hope that this time it will be based on need," said Supervisor Grayson Chesser.

Major said a nonprofit organization working in Linhaven Park — a community in the district she represents — had asked about the grant program.

"It definitely meets the standards," Major said of the community.

After discussion, Major made a motion to ask the ANPDC to apply for a planning grant to conduct surveys of communities in the county with substandard housing.

The motion, seconded by Ron Wolff, was approved unanimously.

"There's a whole bunch of funding out there ... We have citizens of all types, and we as the governing body should also look out for the people who can't speak for themselves," Major said.

Delmarva Now


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