As the Director of the Huntsville Community Development Department, Scott Erwin wears many hats. Working through assistance programs and local nonprofit partners, he and his staff are responsible for improving the lives of low to moderate income residents of Huntsville.
This is an important mission for Erwin, whose parents moved from Gadsden to Huntsville in the 1950s. He grew up in West Huntsville and graduated from Butler High School. He then received his Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Alabama.
He began working for the City of Huntsville in 1998 as the Director of the Safety City program. Due to her previous grant experience, she was asked to be part of community development in 2010.
“I’ve always found myself in a position of trying to make Huntsville a better community,” Erwin said.
Erwin recently took the time to answer a few questions about his role at City.
What is a community development resource that most people don’t know about?
Many may not realize that we are also responsible for administering federal programs for low- and moderate-income households. Through our partner non-profit organizations, we help provide first-time homebuyers with down payment assistance to purchase a home and we help eligible seniors and people with disabilities maintain the exterior of their home through volunteer work.
Many people are unaware that community development also deals with code enforcement violations. How important is this function to ensuring the safety and value of Huntsville neighborhoods?
When I am asked to speak to community organizations about community development, my most important message is, “Our goal is to help strengthen all neighborhoods in Huntsville. “
One way to improve neighborhoods is to enforce our municipal property maintenance ordinances. Landlords and tenants are responsible for maintaining their properties. Failure to cut your grass, remove garbage from your property, or replace rotten wood or peeling paint are all reasons you may receive a Community Development Notice.
In March, Community Development announced that it had received funding to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you provide an update on the Emergency Rent Assistance Program in terms of funding available?
Community development has played a key role in helping families who have been financially affected by COVID-19. In March of this year, we launched a program for Huntsville residents who were unable to pay their rent due to the pandemic.
We initially received a $ 6 million grant from the US Treasury Department to administer the program. Thanks to several local non-profit organizations, we have currently spent approximately $ 4.2 million. The Treasury Department has provided Huntsville with an additional $ 4.7 million in emergency rent assistance program funds. Click here to apply.
Does Community Development offer programs that help first-time home buyers?
A popular community development program is our down payment assistance program for first time buyers. A first-time home buyer who has qualified for a mortgage and purchases a qualifying property within the city of Huntsville may be eligible for down payment assistance of up to $ 7,500.
The buyer’s responsibility is to live in the house for at least five years. If the buyer meets the five-year requirement, the $ 7,500 – recorded as a second mortgage – will be forfeited in full. Homeownership is a great way to stabilize neighborhoods and a mechanism low to moderate income families can use to build wealth.
Community development often works with other agencies like First Stop and the Huntsville Housing Authority. How important are these partnerships to achieving the goals of your department?
All programs administered through community development are intended to benefit the low to moderate income population. We provide services that can achieve this through approximately 20 local non-profit organizations.
We have many partnerships in the community that address critical issues. For example, a few of our nonprofit partners include First Stop, which serves the homeless population; Boys and Girls Club, which serves young people in our community; and CASA, which serves our senior population.
Erwin also responded to a question posed via email, which can be seen below: