County looks to be a lock for housing funds

LISBON – Salem and East Liverpool, along with Columbiana County commissioners, stand to gain an additional $50,000 each by joining forces in seeking federal funding for continuation of a housing rehabilitation and repair program.

Commissioners agreed at Wednesday’s meeting to serve as the lead agency on a joint application with the two cities in seeking a federal Community Housing Impact and Preservation Program (CHIP) grant through the Ohio Development Services Agency.

In years past, all three were eligible to seek CHIP funding individually, with Salem and East Liverpool allowed to apply for up to $300,000 each over two years and up to $400,000 for commissioners. County Development Director Tad Herold said the state changed the rules by raising the two-year funding ceiling for applicants by $50,000 each if they jointly apply for the money instead of seeking grants separately.

To further encourage the practice of collaboration, Herold said the state is awarding extra points for joint applications.

The downside, he said, is the award process will be much more competitive and there is no longer a guarantee applicants will get the full amount they were eligible to receive in the past.

“I’m confident we’ll qualify,” Herold said.

The application is for $925,000 because commissioners are in the middle of their current CHIP grant, which means the county is only eligible to seek half of its $450,000 maximum this time. Salem and East Liverpool are completing their two-year allocation and eligible to seek a full award.

CHIP money is used to rehabilitate and repair homes owned by those who meet income requirements and to also provide funding to help income-eligible first-time homeowners with their down payment. Herold estimated the county assists 30 to 40 homeowners during every two-year funding cycle.

The Community Action Agency will continue to administer the program under contract with commissioners. Its fee is $39,530.