A helping hand: How Community Development empowers Rocket City residents

single-meta-cal April 12, 2023

Their mission is simple: Be a helping hand for those in need. 

The City of Huntsville’s Community Development Office exists to empower economically disadvantaged citizens and assist residents with special or exceptional needs. It’s a mission that inspires Manager Scott Erwin to come to work each day. 

“I like to say we focus on neighborhoods,” Erwin said, noting Community Development’s two core tenants: grants administration and code enforcement.  

The office’s day-to-day varies based on the needs of the community. 

Each project is funded through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That money then directly benefits low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods throughout the Rocket City. 

A man assists with home repairs amidst flowers and thorns.

A Community Development volunteer assists with repairs at a home on Delia Lane in North Huntsville.

With the help of federal dollars and local volunteers from faith-based and community organizations, the City completes approximately 150-200 projects every year. Those projects include anything from lawn maintenance for a disabled or senior resident to installing a ramp to helping underserved neighborhoods get a facelift.  

Partnering for a better tomorrow

Community Development relies on strong partnerships with entities like Habitat for Humanity to serve a wider population.  

Jeremy Foulks, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the River Valley, said its partnership with Community Development formed almost 20 years ago as a commitment to “support affordable and quality housing opportunities to very low-to-low-income families.” 

When I speak with our fellow Habitat affiliates from across the state and across the nation, I often speak of the amazing partnership we have with our City,” Foulks said. “This has led to other affiliates reaching out and developing relationships with their city and county governments to support families in need in their communities.” 

Since the partnership began, Community Development has provided almost $500,000 in down payment assistance and $1.2 million in the co-sponsorships of 19 homes. 

An award-winning team

A man in a black shirt tears vinyl siding off an aged home in Huntsville, Alabama.

A Community Development volunteer tears the siding off at a home on Delia Lane in North Huntsville.

Community Development’s assistance with creating a new neighborhood on Meridian Street recently earned recognition from the Alabama Association of Habitat Affiliates. The organization, which oversees all Habitat for Humanity chapters in Alabama, awarded them the State Community Leader Award. 

“We’re honored to get it, but any community needs strong partners,” Erwin said.  

“We try to provide the funding, resources and leadership to the nonprofits doing the development,” he added. “That’s what makes this partnership so important.” 

The office is keeping up the good work in 2023. 

Erwin says they’ll continue to partner with organizations like Habitat, Neighborhood Concepts and the Family Services Center to help strengthen areas across the City. 

“Our mission is to create more affordable housing units in the community,” he said. “In the next five years, we intend to support the creation of 500 affordable rental units along all zip codes.” 

To learn more about Community Development, click here.