Federal Grant Hike Not A Big Help For Shore

BERLIN – A federal rural development grant to improve substandard housing in the tri-county area is nearly $10,000 more than the 2008 funds, but many homeowners will be left out.

“It’s very little we get to address it,” said McKinley Tull, housing development director at Shore-Up! “It’s very hard.”

The $35,378 grant will fund Shore-Up’s entire housing rehabilitation program for the rural regions of the tri-county area. Last year, the U. S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant was $25,000.

According to Tull, substandard housing is a prevalent problem in Worcester, Somerset and Wicomico counties, particularly for the elderly, disabled and widowed.

“They just don’t have the money to do the repairs,” Tull said.

The program replaces or repairs roofs, windows, doors and some wells and septic systems.

After administrative costs, Shore Up will only have about $30,000 to spend on rehabilitating houses in 2009. The organization spends roughly $3,500 to $4,000 on each home approved.

Tull estimates that the money will fund work on five to six houses in the tri-county area. The number of homes could be higher or lower, depending on the costs of the work.

“It’s tough trying to put on a roof and fix all the windows for $4,000,” Tull said.

Other initiatives, like Worcester County’s housing rehabilitation program, have the grant money or loan programs to spend $20,000 to $30,000 on one house.

When the need is more extreme, Tull has to seek partnerships with other organizations. Rural Development in Snow Hill is the only other entity to handle rural housing rehabilitation across the three counties.

“It is first-come, first-served, but there’s still stipulations with that. It’s location, it’s cost, it’s income driven,” Tull said.

U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin jointly announced the grant last week.

“The poor state of our economy has squeezed many homeowners to the brink of their budgets, forcing them to choose between daily expenses and the very upkeep of their homes,” Cardin said. “I am proud of grants like this that will make it possible for low-income homeowners in Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset Counties to properly repair their homes, maintain their stake in the American dream, and boost the entire economy.”