RUMFORD – Economic Development coordinator Phil Blampied had good news for Rumford on Friday: The town won $200,000 for housing assistance through Maine’s Community Development Block Grant program.

Blampied said in a report on Friday that Rumford was one of seven towns chosen from among 18 applicants in this year’s grant round.

All of the landlords participating in Rumford’s program seeking state assistance are matching the grant funds by an equal amount.

“In total, the grant will bring $302,000 in rehabilitation work to Rumford over the next several months,” Blampied said. “Of that amount, $115,000 will be provided by the landlords themselves.”

He said the money will be put toward repairs and fire code upgrades on 28 specific buildings identified by the town during the application process last winter.

Five of the buildings are historic brick duplexes in Strathglass Park.

“Some of the money will be used to shore up crumbling brick and to repair structural problems,” Blampied said.

The other buildings are multi-unit rental properties for which the funds will go to assist the owners in meeting fire code requirements.

Voters in January OK’d a $20,000 cash match from the town economic development budget for the program, which will help cover the costs of administering the grant, Blampied said.

In November, selectmen chose Community Concepts Inc. to provide grant oversight and administration.

Rumford’s housing stock in its core districts is 100 years old, most of it having been built around 1900 to provide housing for workers in the then recently-opened paper mill.

The Strathglass Park district was built in 1903.

In the last century, these districts have become low to moderate income areas, within which, tenants and owners have not been able to provide optimum maintenance.

“After a century, the declining maintenance has become critical, with failing structural integrity of the brick buildings in Strathglass, and the lack of compliance with fire and life safety codes in multi-family apartment houses,” Blampied said.

As of Feb. 1, more than 70 of these buildings were empty, partly because the cost of necessary maintenance wasn’t supported by rental income or the assets of owner-occupants.

“Not only are some LMI tenants displaced by building closures, but they face reduced choice of vacancies, the prospective health and safety hazards of living in non-compliant premises, and the creation of blight conditions in their neighborhoods due to abandoned buildings,” Blampied said.

Blampied, through the Economic Development Committee, applied for the CDBG grant after the town began to conduct regular inspections late last year.

The inspections revealed that required corrections often cost more than could easily be supported by rent levels in the Rumford market.

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