The city of Midway has embarked on a mission to renovate the houses of its most needy citizens.
The city has received a Community Development Block Grant of $700,000 which will be used to rehabilitate, demolish or replace eight substandard housing units.
The grant program, created in 1974, is administered by the state government for the purpose of developing smaller communities by providing decent housing, a suitable living environment and economic opportunities for low- or moderate-income people.
In order to qualify for assistance from the grant, which will be completed by August 2019, the home must be in a deteriorated condition and be occupied by a person or family with a low to moderate income.
Andy Easton, of Andy Easton & Associates, is providing overall project administration, and believes initiatives like this are vital to the health of Midway.
“Affordable and safe housing is important to the well-being and health of families,” Easton said. “Without adequate housing, families have trouble managing their daily lives.”
“Low-income families may not have enough money to cover other vital needs, such as food, utilities or health-related expenses if housing costs are too high,” Easton continued. “Families that have their homes improved with Community Development Block Grant funds improve their well-being and their quality of life.”
The grant will cover eight local houses, with the amount spent on each house ranging from $38,300 to $72,250.
The assistance is provided in the form of a Deferred Payment Loan which does not have to be paid back unless the house is sold within a five-year period.
“Most of the applicants live in mobile homes that are in a deteriorated condition,” Easton said. “The city’s housing assistance policy requires that deteriorated mobile homes that are eligible for Community Development Block Grant assistance be demolished and replaced with a site- built home rather than be repaired.
Most of the eight applicants also have very low incomes, are elderly and have a handicap.”
Reginald Chandler, a 70-year-old man with health problems, is one recipient of the Community Development Block Grant grant, who says it has turned his life around.
“I’m 70 years of age and worked all my life, and I still have to rake yards to get by,” Chandler said. “I’ve been down on my luck, my house has been burnt and burglarized, and by the grace of god I was eligible for the program.”
Chandler, whose mobile home is without insulation and is in a state of almost complete disrepair, says the program is a godsend.
“It’s almost like a dream,” Chandler said. “I’ve been praying to the Lord, and they answered my prayers. It’s like a fairy tale dream to me. It’s going to be great to be able to be in the house without worrying, and it’s a blessing.”
The city used a points and ranking system to decide which applicants to accept for assistance, with “handicapped and elderly persons on fixed income within established very low-income guidelines” scoring the highest amount of points (13).
“Very low income residents have the highest priority along with residents that have very low incomes and that are also elderly and/or handicapped,” Easton said. “Residents with higher incomes and that are not elderly or handicapped have a lower priority. The city also requires the applicant to own and live in the home that will receive the assistance. Also, the home must be located within the Midway city limits.”
The project is being managed by City Manager Leslie Steele, along with Easton and another consultant, Jay Moseley of Government Services Group. Both consultants have been managing Community Development Block Grant grants for many years.
“The Midway City Council has done an excellent job of providing oversight on this project,” Easton said, relaying his regret that they could not do more. “One of the downsides to this program is that there is only a limited amount of funds available for housing improvements in relation to the significant need.”
The need for government assistance such as this is evident in Midway, which has a poverty rate of 15.2 percent, according to the most recent census.
According to Easton, projects like this can help alleviate that poverty on those who need it most.
“The Community Development Block Grants helps to improve the overall quality of the city’s housing stock and helps to improve the housing conditions for individual residents that otherwise could not afford the improvements,” Easton said.
According to Chandler, the only problem with the grant is that it cannot help more people like him.
“I love it to death, I wish there was just more of it, because I’m not the only person that’s down on their luck,” Chandler said. “I was just in the right place at the right time, and I feel very highly that God does everything for a reason, puts us through trials and tribulations, and I tell people don’t ever give up, just pray and do the right thing, and this will happen. It’s like a dream.”
By Weston Williams