Supervisors needing to act quickly in pursuit of HOME help

Published 5:00 am Friday, April 11, 2008

The deadline for applications to the U.S. Department of Housingand Urban Development’s home renovation program is approaching, butindividuals will not be allowed to send their applications straightto the top in 2008 due to time constraints on the program. Theapplications must be submitted by May 1.

Instead, Lincoln County supervisors have been tasked withcompiling a list of families in need and choosing whichapplications will be submitted to HUD’s HOME Investment PartnershipProgram. The program funds home renovations, and in many casesconstruction of new homes, for low-income families that have ownedand lived in their current house for at least one year.

“The county is the applicant,” said Jim Mangum, a planner forthe Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District, whichis assisting the county in developing the applications. “Theapplications are developed by the counties and municipalities, thenthe money is distributed through those entities. The supervisorsmake the list – it’s up to them.”

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A public hearing for the program will be held at the LincolnCounty-Brookhaven Government Complex on Thursday, April 24, at 5:30p.m. County residents may make their cases for having theirapplications chosen at the hearing, but the selection ultimatelylies with the supervisors.

Not all the supervisors are looking forward to having to choosebetween the residents of their districts. District Four SupervisorDoug Moak does not plan to participate, partly for fear of leavingout a family in need and partly because his district has lessresidents that need – or can qualify for – the program’sassistance.

“I can’t foresee myself picking anyone to be quite honest,” hesaid. “I don’t know of anyone in my area that is interested in it.If anyone came forward from my district, I would be happy toprovide them with as much information as I can.”

District One Supervisor the Rev. Jerry Wilson is alsodiscouraged about having to choose who will have the chance at theprogram and who will not, but he is prepared to make the toughcalls. Wilson said he is primarily looking for elderly applicantsfor HOME.

“Because of the short notice, we’re having to pick and it’s atough call – but anything that will better the community, I’mwilling to do it,” Wilson said. “I wish we would have had enoughtime for everyone to come out and have a chance. But there’s somepeople in my district whose house is about to fall in, so I’mtrying to help them. There’s money out there that can be a blessingto the people.”

Regardless of who is chosen for HOME and who is not, there is noguarantee that an application will be funded. The county’s recordwith the program in the past is bleak.

“It’s something we’ve never been able to get anything out of,”said Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop. “We had sixapplicants last year and none of them got funded. We can’t do anyworse this year than we did last year.”

The application process for HOME is highly competitive, takinginto account factors such as a family’s percentage of the medianincome, the age of the house in question and how many familymembers live in the house.

The factors are graded on a points scale to determine anapplication’s score. HUD receives around 100 applications fromMississippi each year and funds about 25.