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County seeks grant to improve housing conditions

COMMISSIONERS Bobby Burns, left, and Al Ball were elected chairman and vice chairman of the board Tuesday morning.

Grady County commissioners began work in the new year by throwing their support behind a program designed to eliminate substandard housing locally.
Commissioners unanimously approved Chairman Bobby Burns’ execution of a resolution authorizing the Southwest Georgia Regional Development Center to apply for a Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) grant of up to $300,000.
If approved, the grant funds could be used to rehabilitate, repair or, in some instances, construct new housing to replace substandard housing owned by residents of unincorporated areas of the county.
Brenda Wade of the RDC appeared before the commission to brief commissioners on the CHIP program and how it could benefit Grady County.
According to Ms. Wade, there is no matching funds requirement for the county, so the local government has to make no financial investment in the program. She also explained that she not only writes the grant application, but also administers the grant from start to finish.
“I am currently working in Coolidge, Meigs and Arlington. In Arlington, we have already completed work on five homes,” Ms. Wade told commissioners.
Commissioner Charles Renaud asked if any counties had applied for CHIP and, although Ms. Wade has not made application for any southwest Georgia counties, she noted that in other areas of the state counties routinely apply.
The RDC representative said she has not been contacted by anyone with the city of Cairo, but noted that if the city were to apply, another $300,000 could possibly be made available to improve housing within the corporate limits of Cairo.
According to Ms. Wade, should the county’s application be approved, the funds could only be invested in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Renaud asked if the city and county could apply jointly, and Ms. Wade said that is a possibility, but that it would be better for both governments to apply so that more money could be invested in improving local housing.
The RDC representative also told commissioners she works with other agencies that have funds that can be appropriated for housing improvements, including the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Through the CHIP program, homeowners are required to invest a match with their own funds, but in these tough economic, times that is not always possible. Ms. Wade says that often the homeowner’s match can come through programs other than CHIP, like those administered by the Community Action Council and USDA.
Commissioner Al Ball, who sits on the board of the community action council, expressed his opinion Tuesday morning that Grady County does not receive its share of grant funds for such programs as CHIP because the local government does not apply for them, while neighboring communities do routinely.
Ms. Wade told the board that CHIP funds have been invested to put new roofs on homes, repair and replace rotted floors, install heating & air systems and, in some cases, paint or install vinyl siding.
She told commissioners that participants in the program are approved using Housing & Urban Development income guidelines, in which they must have proof of property ownership, and verification of property taxes being paid in full.
Ball noted that although there is no financial commitment, the deadline for submission of the grant application is fast approaching and urged the board’s approval. The deadline to apply is April 1, 2009.
County Administrator Rusty Moye described the program as a “win-win” for the county, and commissioners voted unanimously to authorize RDC to apply for up to $300,000 on behalf of the county.

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