You ask. We Answer: Scott Erwin, Community Development Manager
As manager 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.
It’s 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 earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Alabama.
He first came to work at the City of Huntsville in 1998 as Director of the Safety City Program. Due to his previous grantmaking experience, he was invited to be part of community development in 2010.
“I’ve always found myself in a position to try to make Huntsville a better community,” Erwin said.
Erwin recently took the time to answer a few questions about his role with the City.
What resource does community development offer that most people don’t know about?
Many may not realize that we are also responsible for administering federal programs intended to benefit low to middle income households. Through our partner nonprofits, we help provide first-time homebuyers with down payment assistance on buying a home and we help eligible seniors and people with disabilities maintain the outside their homes through volunteer work.
Many people don’t know that Community Development also handles code enforcement violations. How important is this function to keeping Huntsville neighborhoods safe and valuable?
When 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 litter from your property, or fail to replace rotting wood or peeling paint are all reasons you could receive a notice from Community Development.
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 Housing Assistance Program in terms of funding available?
Community development has played a key role in helping families who have been financially impacted 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 originally received a $6 million grant from the US Treasury Department to administer the program. Through several local non-profit organizations, we have currently spent approximately $4.2 million. The Treasury Department has awarded Huntsville 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 home buyers. A first-time homebuyer who has qualified for a mortgage and purchases a qualifying property within the city limits 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 – registered as a second mortgage – will be entirely forgiven. Home ownership is a great way to stabilize neighborhoods and is a mechanism low to middle 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 your department’s goals?
All programs administered through community development are intended to benefit the low to moderate income population. We provide services that can achieve this goal through approximately 20 local nonprofit 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 submitted via email, which can be seen below: