Council debates merit of grant money for rentals

Julie Reid of the Kerr-Tar Council of Governments advised the Henderson City Council on Monday evening regarding an application for a concentrated needs grant application which would total $1,000,000.

The grant could potentially serve fourteen houses on Ransom Street and two on Pettigrew Street. It would include replacing sewer lines, water lines, sewer manifolds, widening and resurfacing of the street, and the rehabilitation and/or demolition and reconstruction of homes.

As the presentation went on, it was learned that only four private homeowners were on-board with the project. The balance of owners, who were identified as landlords, were not interested in participating in the project. It was later discovered that at least one landlord had chosen not to participate because the landlord felt the house was “just fine”.

According to Reid, it weakens the application to what she described as “a very competitive grant”.

It was also revealed during the discussion that participating landlords would have to control rent on a rehabilitated property for four years if they chose to be included in the program.

Member Garry Daeke opined the landlords should be taking care of their needs in a free market. He went on to say that if properties were kept up at minimum standard, the program might not be needed.

Council member Mike Rainey also expressed concern over landlord participation, in particular the fact that landlords would collect rent from houses that were “fixed up” by the grant.

Ward 1 council member Mary Emma Evans said that “it seems like we are more concerned about whether the landlord gets a little bit of help than the residents”. She said she would like to see the area revitalized “at a reasonable cost”.

Ward 4 representative Lonnie Davis said that the council was talking about “not better housing” because of “somebody else getting income from it”. He said that something needs to be done.

Council member Bernard Alston, who arrived after the discussion had begun, attempted to bridge the philosophical gap that was developing between council members by suggesting that the council determine “what we want to do and not what we don’t want to do”. He said that the council had “created a kind of inertia”.

City Manager Ray Griffin noted that the grant addressed two council goals of redevelopment of housing and neighborhood redevelopment. He said that “no grant is perfect”, but it was felt that [the city] needed to have a presence in Raleigh during the current funding cycle.

After Henderson Mayor Pete O’Geary opened and closed a public hearing on the issue at which no one spoke, the council unanimously approved the grant application. Member Mike Inscoe recused himself both the discussion and the vote, citing a potential conflict of interest because of his consulting work for the Kerr-Tar Council of Governments.