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Jefferson Planning and Development Committee approves use of $750,000 in CDBG funds

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Some low- to moderate-income homeowners and tenants in Jefferson County soon may be eligible to receive a portion of $750,000 to help fix up their properties following a resolution approved Tuesday by the Board of Legislators’ Planning and Development Committee.

The funds, awarded in December by the federal Community Development Block Grant Program, mark the sixth year the program has brought money to the area.

The funds are received by the county but administered by Avalon & Associates Inc., a Glens Falls consulting firm that contracts with the county to write proposals and, if they are successful, administer them, said Gary C. Beasley, executive director of Neighbors of Watertown.

According to county Planner Donald R. Canfield, Avalon is paid approximately $57,000 per year for performing this service, money that comes out of the total grant amount, not from county tax dollars.

Neighbors of Watertown is responsible for implementing the program by screening applicants for eligibility, soliciting bids from contractors and seeing projects through to completion.

The $750,000, which is the largest amount the county has ever received, will go toward rehabilitating 28 units of housing: 14 single-family homes, seven multiple-family configurations and seven renter-occupied households.

Those 28 have been selected from a list of 364 applicants. With so many, it can be difficult to determine who will get the grants, Mr. Beasley said.

Substandard housing owned or occupied by low- to moderate-income households is eligible for CDBG funding at a rate of 100 percent of the cost of necessary rehabilitation.

The financing is structured as a free loan as long as the property is maintained according to the standards of the program.

If, after all improvements are made, the property is sold or the occupants who made the improvements leave before five years, a prorated portion of the loan will be repaid to the county.

Total household income for all occupants, including benefits and investment gains, is used to determine eligibility according to a percentage of state median household income. Applicants can qualify for the program at 80 percent of the income standard. At 50 percent of the income standard, a household is considered very low income and is given priority consideration.

In terms of improvements, major health and safety concerns receive top billing. Properties with weatherization issues are second in line, followed by dwellings with problems that don’t place occupants in imminent danger.

According to Mr. Beasley, an applicant can spend a long time on the waiting list.

Neighbors of Watertown has in progress 11 of 23 units funded by a $600,000 grant from 2011. Depending on the time of year, it can take 90 days to six months to finish a job.

Now that the resolution has been approved by the Planning and Development Committee, it will be considered by the full board, which is expected to pass it when it meets again Feb. 12.

Following the passage of the resolution, Mr. Beasley said, he estimates it will take about six months before the 2012 funds are put to use.

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