County asks CHIP for grant

CONYERS -- Rockdale County will submit a grant application that would provide funds for down payment assistance for low income homeowners and in rehabilitating homes that are in disrepair.

The grant is from the Community HOME Investment Program and is administered through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. CHIP uses a portion of DCA's housing development funds to assist local governments, nonprofit organizations and public housing authorities to implement affordable housing in their communities.

Alice Cintron, Rockdale County grant administrator, said the grant is needed and follows the county's comprehensive land use plan.

"This grant is open to only local governments from DCA," Cintron said during a Board of Commissioners work session Monday. "It's a funding stream that the county has not historically sought, but we are qualified for it."

The grant application would be filed by July 1. The maximum amount awarded per applicant is $300,000, according to the DCA's program description. Recipients will be notified by the end of summer.

Cintron said that there would be no requirement for matching funds from the county when asked by Commissioner Oz Nesbitt. "Matching funds are recommended, but not required," she said.

If the county receives the CHIP grant, Cintron said a request for qualifications would be advertised to begin the process to select a management firm for the program.

She said a public awareness effort would be done to let the public know about CHIP funds. Through her researching for the grant application, Cintron said a significant number of Rockdale County residents have contacted the Governor's Office for Consumer Affairs to inquire on the availability of government help to renovate their houses.

The CHIP grant helps in two areas for home ownership. One part provides funds to assist existing low-income homeowners with repair, rehabilitation or reconstruction of their homes.

The other part helps low- and moderate-income households finance eligible, affordable homes by providing funds for down payment, closing costs, prepaid items and principal reduction assistance.

Cintron said Rockdale County intended to used CHIP funds toward its ongoing neighborhood stabilization efforts. However, she said it should not be confused with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The NSP is a separate program that purchases houses, rehabilitates them and then seeks perspective buyers that was a response to the high number of foreclosures in the county.

Commissioner JaNice Van Ness said the CHIP grant sounded like it would address a need in the county, but asked why the administration was not going after grant money for other needs. She said the county-owned water utility is in dire need for infrastructure funding to replace water and sewer pipes and pay for upgrades to the system.