The Garrett County Commissioners held their second public meeting of October on Tuesday afternoon at the Garrett County Courthouse.
PRO Housing will provide $85 million for competitive grant funding for the identification and removal of barriers to affordable housing production and preservation. This public hearing eventually led to the approval from the county commissioners to give the “go-ahead” for Garrett County to submit the application for the grant.
The communities who receive the grants can use awards to further develop, evaluate and implement housing policy plans and improve housing strategies — an issue that has been a focal point for the county commissioners, the Garrett Workforce Housing Alliance, the Garrett County Economic Development Staff, Community Action and other groups.
“The funding can go towards a bunch of different opportunities such as infrastructure, planning and zoning, development activities and preservation,” said Chrissy Marucci. “The Garrett Workforce Housing Alliance is working on rehabilitation projects and looking for funding to be able to complete those projects and get people into housing immediately.
“This application shows that we are an underserved community and that there are numerous projects that I submitted to the commissioners to evaluate.”
Commissioner Chairman Paul Edwards said that the opportunity for this grant was brought to their attention about a month ago and that there is a quick turnaround. Due to this, they wouldn’t be able to do the two-week comment period like they normally do for public comment.
“Typically when we have a public hearing, we give a two-week comment period for people to digest the information and be able to comment to us,” said Edwards. “Because the application process timeline is so soon, we are not going to be able to do that. There will not be a two-week wait.”
Edwards also reiterated that this will be 100% grant money and that there is no match required.
“This would be significant if we could get this,” said Edwards. “It is going to be competitive, but if we can pull this off, it can put a lot of money into Garrett County to be able to do a lot of the things that we’re already doing and just enhance those and make them bigger.”
Steve Kelley, the director of Community Development, also spoke in favor of pursuing the grant.
“I’ll speak for our economic development department that the lack of affordable housing is probably our No. 1 issue right now,” said Kelley. “In the bigger picture, we have a shrinking population and an aging population, but I think a lot of that is due to the lack of affordable housing.
“Speaking from experience, my wife and I moved here and could not find a home in our budget. We’ve lived in an RV for four months, and it’s a hard thing to do. We are trying to solve this problem, and we hope we get this grant.”
The county commissioners then passed a resolution authorizing the process of applying for the grant.
“This could fund a lot of great projects that we have already identified, as well as future projects,” said Edwards.