As manager of Huntsville’s Community Development Department, Scott Erwin wears many hats. Working through assistance programs and local nonprofit partners, he and his staff are charged with improving the lives of Huntsville’s low-to-moderate income residents.
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 went on to earn 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. Because of his previous grant experience, he was asked to be part of Community Development in 2010.
“I have always found myself in a position of trying to make Huntsville a better community,” Erwin said.
Erwin recently took time to answer a few questions about his role with the City.
What is a resource Community Development offers that most people don’t know about?
Many may not realize we are also responsible for administering federal programs that are intended to benefit low-to-moderate income households. Through our partner nonprofit organizations, we help provide first-time homebuyers with down payment assistance to purchase a home and we assist eligible senior and disabled citizens with the exterior maintenance of their homes through volunteer labor.
Many people don’t know Community Development also handles code enforcement violations. How important is that function to ensuring the safety and value of Huntsville’s neighborhoods?
When I’m asked to address community organizations about Community Development, my most important message is, “Our purpose is to help strengthen all Huntsville neighborhoods.”
One way to improve neighborhoods is to enforce our City ordinances related to property maintenance. Property owners and renters alike have a responsibility to maintain their properties. Failure to cut your grass, remove junk from your property, or not replacing rotten wood or peeling paint are all reasons you may receive a notice from Community Development.
In March, Community Development announced it had received funding to help those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you provide an update on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in terms of available funding?
Community Development has played a key role in assisting families who were financially affected by COVID-19. In March of this year, we launched a program for Huntsville residents who were unable to pay their rent because of the pandemic.
We initially received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury to administer the program. Through several local nonprofit organizations, we have currently expended about $4.2 million. The Treasury Department has awarded Huntsville an additional $4.7 million in emergency rental assistance program funds. Click here to apply.
Does Community Development provide any programs that help first-time homebuyers?
A popular program of Community Development is our down payment assistance program for first-time homebuyers. A first-time homebuyer who has qualified for a mortgage and is purchasing an eligible property in the city limits of Huntsville may qualify for up to $7,500 in down payment assistance.
The homebuyer’s responsibility is to live in the house for a minimum of five years. If the homebuyer fulfills the five-year requirement, the $7,500 – recorded as a second mortgage – will be fully forgiven. Homeownership is an excellent way to stabilize neighborhoods and is 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 those partnerships to fulfilling the goals of your department?
All of the programs administered through Community Development are intended to benefit the low-to-moderate income population. We deliver services that can accomplish 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 the youth in our community; and CASA, which serves our senior population.
Erwin also answered a question submitted via email, which can be seen below: