Southern county towns to apply for regional housing grant

For the Bulletin
Thursday, January 26, 2017

SUNDERLAND — Homeowners in southern Franklin County will soon be in the running for more funding options.

Sunderland is part of a regional Community Development Block Grant application along with Leverett, Conway and Deerfield. The grant is an initiative by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to bolster anti-poverty programs like affordable housing and infrastructure development.

Bruce Hunter, Franklin Regional Housing Authority community development infrastructure coordinator, said the application is just about complete, and will soon be submitted.

“It’s a competitive application, there are approximately 350 towns of populations less than 50,000” competing for about $19 million, Hunter said.

The regional application requests funding for five housing units in Leverett, seven in Conway, six in Deerfield and six in Sunderland, for a total of $960,000. Hunter said regional applications are due March 10. Of that, Sunderland has applied for $240,000, Conway for $280,000, Leverett, $200,000 and Deerfield, $240,000.

For months now, the four towns have been spreading interest and encouraging residents to individually apply to the housing authority for the grant. Towns will know if they’ve been awarded funds by August.

Elsewhere, the Franklin Regional Housing Authority is putting together an application for Montague, which also received the grant last year.

If awarded, the Housing Rehabilitation Regional Program will provide selected qualifying residents zero-percent deferred payment loans for household repairs such as roofing, windows, siding and electrical improvements.

The application outlines that “loans are generally no greater than $35,000 per unit. However, if homes need inherently expensive improvements … then loans can be made for up to $40,000.”

Essentially, the loans only need to be repaid if the property transfers ownership.

Right now, Hunter said the Franklin Regional Housing Authority is accepting applications, which can be obtained by contacting Jen Morrow at 413-863-9781, ext. 137. An information flier can be found on the town’s website.

Leverett will host an informational meeting Feb. 10 in the Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. Montague will hold a meeting Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. in its Town Hall. Hunter said it’s important for everyone who’s interested in the program, or who has participated in the past, to attend as a show of support.

In 2016, Hunter said the Franklin Regional Housing Authority helped put together a similar regional application for Bernardston, Rowe and Gill — which were awarded a total of $1 million to rehabilitate 18 houses.

Other towns in Franklin County that received the grant last year include Shelburne, Buckland, Colrain, Athol and Montague, which got a total of $816,825 to rehabilitate four housing units, improve lighting on Avenue A, and to provide youth leadership, family literacy and elder support services.