Libby Baugher has lived in her apartment on Bell Court in Woodsboro since the 24-unit senior living complex opened on Dec. 1, 1996.
Since then, not much has changed in the one-bedroom town house-style apartments — the roofs are the same, along with the tile in the kitchen and bathrooms.
But there’s one area that Baugher, 84, specifically pointed to inside her apartment that needs to be replaced.
“The stove is the worst,” she said. “The big burner won’t stay lit.”
Now, through community development block grants from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, Baugher and several other residents at Bell Court will see many improvements to their apartments and central community room.
County officials learned last month that state officials awarded the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development $800,000 in block grants, the maximum amount eligible jurisdictions can receive.
Milton Bailey, director of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development, said the funds will be split between the Bell Court improvements and the county’s Homebuyer Assistance Program, helping provide between $8,000 and $10,000 to first-time homebuyers in down payment or closing cost assistance.
Susan Brown, the county’s housing program manager, said improvements to Bell Court would include roof replacements, new gutters and downspouts, sprinkler systems inside and new stoves and tiled floors in the kitchens and bathrooms.
The other $400,000 will be used for the Homebuyer Assistance Program, which is run by Heather Sutton, the housing program coordinator. Sutton said she has a yearly budget of $500,000 to fund that program, which is used by an average of just shy of 100 families per year.
She added that she has two years to spend the $400,000, which will allow her to increase her loan amounts and the number of clients she serves.
Both she and Brown said state programs are competitive. Bailey pointed out that the state typically has around $6 million to $8 million annually to distribute to local jurisdictions, including various cities and counties statewide.
“We’ve applied before, and have not been chosen for our programs,” Sutton said. “All kinds of people are applying for these funds.”
Applying for the grants includes writing a lengthy narrative for the proposals, justifying the county’s need for the funds, Brown said.
Bailey added that the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development considers a number of factors when awarding grants.
“The metrics we get measured by is how efficiently we use the funds, how well we leverage the funds and how well we get the funds out into the community, and so far, we have high scores on all those metrics,” Bailey said.
Regarding the Bell Court improvements, a 90-day environmental review will be completed by state officials by early October, and then the money will be released, Brown said.
She added that the county will start a procurement process and the work should be completed around the end of the year.
Bailey hopes the $800,000 in grants allow his department’s staff to pursue and obtain more funding for future housing needs.
“It’s very much a part of our job to keep current with the specs of what’s currently available, what ancillary opportunities there are to provide housing and homeownership opportunities for people through the county,” Bailey said. “Whatever the state or HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] is putting out in terms of an RFP [request for proposal], if it has an application or use in the county, we’ll go after it.”