Monday evening the Hawkins County Commission voted unanimously to apply for a $500,000 Home Grant from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. The money is state pass-through federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
County Mayor Crockett Lee said Wednesday that in the past Hawkins County's municipalities applied for the grant individually, and some were left out. By uniting the cities with the county, Lee said Hawkins County has a better overall chance of grant approval.
The county should learn if it has been approved for the grant funding within a couple of months. If it is approved, Lee said he will release a public notice regarding application procedures for families who wish to apply for a new home.
"This comes around about every three years, and last time we got seven or eight houses built," Lee said. "The way we used to do it, with every city doing their own application, somebody always got left out. The applications are based on a points system, and by going countywide we'll get more points, and hopefully be able to get more houses built.
"It's not a mansion, but it's a good modern house that we build for about $45,000 to $50,000, and there are a lot of people in this county who are really in need."
There a a few stipulations for needy families who receive a new house.
Assuming the grant is approved, the county will take individual applications from county residents, and those residents must fall below a certain income level and own their property.
The First Tennessee Development District office in Johnson city will judge the individual homeowner applications and administer the grant funds.
The houses that were replaced three years ago were all in a state of serious dilapidation, Lee said.
"There's one close to the Hancock County line where the people lived in deplorable conditions," Lee said. "The house was falling apart, and there were chickens going in and out of the house - it was just bad. The husband was bedridden, and they thought he was going to die, and I would guess that his health was helped a lot by the living conditions.
"He's still living and not really well, but I'm sure that he'd have been dead by now if we hadn't built that house for them."