State funding for home repairs available to some Milford residents

MILFORD — Representatives of Kent and Sussex counties looking to help Milford ascertain funding from the Delaware State Housing Authority spoke to City Council about how they want to help maintain Milford’s housing stock.

One representative, Brad Whaley, represented Sussex County Community Development, while the other, Mike Miles, represented Kent County during the Monday night meeting.

The money available comes to the DSHA from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“This HUD funding is designed to assist low- to moderate-income homeowners with housing issues,” Mr. Whaley said.

“Historically, we’ve used the majority of this funding for housing rehabilitation in order to keep the housing stock stable,” he said. “It’s not really so much housing remodeling as it is just keeping the housing units stable.”

Mr. Whaley said the money is often used for “small infrastructure projects, demolitions (and) sewer and water hookups,” as well as other “basic repairs.”

The offices of Mr. Miles and Mr. Whaley apply to DSHA for funding on behalf of Kent and Sussex counties, respectively. All individual municipalities must do is sign off on documents that allow the counties to pursue this funding on their behalf, something Milford’s City Council intends to do.

But this funding is not available to every homeowner.

“In order to receive the funding, the household has to have an income that’s at or below 80% of the (county’s) median income,” Mr. Whaley said.

That number is different for Kent and Sussex counties.

Mr. Whaley said that in Sussex, “the income in has to be, for a one-person household, below $42,500. Then, it goes up about $6,000 per additional household (member).”

Mr. Miles said “Kent County’s limits are a little bit lower,” and the most someone can make while participating in the program is $38,300 for a single-person household. With additional household members, the maximum income increases by a few thousand dollars.

The schedule for those increases and more information about Kent County’s program can be found at bit.ly/2LDEXVr.

Although the money is allocated to homeowners via what Mr. Miles called a “deferred loan,” he said that in most cases, recipients will not have to pay any money back.

“The only way they would be required to pay something back is if they sold their property or if somebody should, God forbid, pass away,” Mr. Miles said.

But he explained that if the property can be sold to or passed on to someone who meets the income requirements, any outstanding grant money wouldn’t need to be paid back.

“Say I want to sell my house, and I have one of these grants, and there’s still money existing on it,” Mr. Miles said. “If I was to sell my property to somebody that was under the income requirements and they wanted to go through the county’s application process, then that lien, so to speak — those grant funds — would transfer to the new homeowner,” he said.

Mr. Whaley said the program has been a big success on the Sussex County side, where he’s currently working with 12 residents.

“On the Sussex side, over the last 10 years, the city of Milford has received over $280,000 in community development block grant funding and we’ve been able to help 16 households,” he said.

“Currently, for the 2020 funding year, the town received $70,000 and we’re in the process of using that now,” Mr. Whaley said. “We actually have one case under contract, and we’re in the bidding process for the second one.”

But on the Kent County side, it’s been a bit more of a challenge for Mr. Miles.

“I think we tried to get an application through for Milford in (fiscal 2019) or perhaps (fiscal 2018), but that did not come to fruition,” he said. “We do need to have at least four viable households in Milford on our waiting list. At this point, we have three.”

Homeowners applying for the grant need to prove that they would be able to bring their home up to code with the money provided.

Mr. Miles said many homes on the Kent County side “are in states of disrepair (where) our funding could not bring the home up to code with the funding that’s allowable.”

His office has encountered other challenges in Milford.

“We’ve had a number of people drop out of the program,” he said. “We have folks who at one point were under our income limits and then grew out of those income limits, which meant they no longer qualified.”

Additionally, he said the fact that the program technically loans money to homeowners, even if they aren’t expected to pay it back, turns many people off.

Mr. Miles said that when some people “hear the term ‘lien,’ that makes them want to back out.”

He encouraged any Kent County residents in Milford interested in more information or getting on the waiting list for funding to call his office at 744-2480. Those on the Sussex County side interested in the program can call Mr. Whaley’s office at 855-7777.