Haywood to receive substantial grant funding for affordable housing
An unexpected $8 million windfall from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has the potential to help community stakeholders make significant progress in the fight to bring more affordable housing to Haywood County.
“It was a surprise to us, and a welcome surprise as well,” said David Francis, county program administrator and community and economic development director. “This wasn’t something, per se, that we applied for. It was that FEMA came down and in conjunction with the state looked at the situation and said, here’s how much you deserve. We’ve never had this much money to be able to put towards affordable housing.”
The grant comes as the result of a draft action plan issued by the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency.
“What this document has is the background information from HUD to the Community Development Block Grants,” said Francis. “They take statistical information that they have to build the case needed to arrive at an amount.”
According to a preliminary damage assessment conducted by FEMA from Aug. 25 to Sept. 2 , 2021, 563 residences were impacted in the 11-county disaster region, with almost 10% of them a total loss.
Another 206 residences were deemed to have major damage, defined as “substantial failure to structural elements of residence or damage that will take more than 30 days to repair.”
An additional 160 residences received minor damage, meaning they could be made inhabitable with repairs in a short period of time, and 141 residences were designated as “affected” but still habitable.
To help residents find assistance, the North Carolina Office of State Budget Management set up a disaster recovery center in the Historic Haywood County Courthouse. The office received 205 applications for assistance from Haywood County residents, with 45% of them asking for housing repairs.
Two months after President Joe Biden’s Sept. 8 disaster declaration , FEMA had counted more than $18 million in federal grants, flood insurance payments and loans for businesses, homeowners and renters in Buncombe, Haywood and Transylvania counties.
The $18 million included just over $3 million in grants for 673 households, $3.5 million in U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans and $11.8 million in National Flood Insurance policy claims.
Of the individual assistance rendered by FEMA, 13.3% went to households below the poverty line, 13.9% went to people with disabilities, 16.7% went to seniors 65 and older, and 21.9% went to persons under the age of 18 — some of the region’s most vulnerable groups.
The State of North Carolina also chipped in, to the tune of $44 million across 11 counties.
Even with all that aid, unmet needs remain, according to an assessment from June of this year.
The most impacted area, according to the assessment, is within the Haywood County zip code of 28716.
Totals of unmet needs include $16.2 million for housing and $750,000 for infrastructure, which is where the draft plan for the $8 million in Community Development Block Grants enters the picture.
In May of this year, HUD allocated $2.2 billion in funding to the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program for presidentially declared disasters occurring in 2021.
Of that $2.2 billion, $7,975,000 is expected to be received by a division of the State of North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety, the Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR).
The allocation was made possible through the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022, despite an almost total lack of Republican support on a state and national level.
On Sept. 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution, called H.R. 5305 , that included the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
All 220 House Democrats voted yes, and all 211 Republicans, including North Carolina’s entire Republican delegation , voted no.
Nine days later, the bill cleared the senate by a margin of 65 to 35 . North Carolina Republican senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis both voted yes.
Later that day, when H.R. 5305 returned to the House, it had gained the support of 43 Republicans and passed by a 254 to 175 margin.
Again, all 220 House Democrats voted yes. Again, every single member of North Carolina’s Republican congressional delegation — except for Patrick McHenry (R-Lincoln) — voted no .
To meet HUD spending guidelines, the project budget stipulates that 5% of the $7,975,000 grant will be used for administrative costs, and a little over 7% will be used for planning costs.
The rest, exactly $7 million, will be used for affordable housing development, while at least 15% of the total grant must be used for mitigation.
At least 70% of the $7 million must be used to the benefit of low- to moderate-income persons.
Francis said the county could expect to see the money as soon as December, and that he wants to be ready to maximize its impact.
“So what we’re now doing is building our inventory and considering how to deploy that money. We’re working with Mountain Projects. They have Bethel Village, they have Harkins Avenue. We’re acquiring new construction figures for those projects and we’ll now be able to move those along. We’re meeting with Habitat for Humanity and the Waynesville Housing Authority and just recently, Mountain Housing Opportunities has reached out,” he said. “We’re meeting with those folks, and trying to develop a program. One of the things we definitely want to do is increase affordable housing, but also increase the rental stock here in the county as well.”
Patsy Davis, executive director of Mountain Projects, said she had presented several ideas to the county that include Bethel Village and infrastructure and development costs for Harkins Avenue.
“We’re looking at how to maximize assets dedicated to affordable housing that we already own,” Davis said.
Notably, none of these plans are yet set in stone; as part of the granting process, a 30-day public comment window opened on Aug. 1.
Haywood County commissioners will host a representative from NCORR during their regular meeting on Aug. 15 to give a presentation on the grant and the methodology behind it.
The presentation will take place in the context of a public hearing, and all comments will end up back with NCORR, which will then submit a final plan to HUD.
The Haywood County Board of Commissioners will call for public comment on potential uses or ideas for the $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A representative from the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency will give a short presentation. Read the entire draft Tropical Storm Fred Public Action Plan online at rebuild.nc.gov/media/2550/open. Those wishing to speak at the meeting should arrive 10 minutes early to sign up for public comment.
• Date: Monday, Aug. 15
• Time: 5:30 p.m.
• Location: History Haywood County Courthouse, 215 N. Main St., Waynesville