House 1

The Down East Home Consortium voted to release the $70,000 lien on the house at 508 E. Battle Ave. in Tarboro.

Rocky Mount officials sought to set the record straight about reports of efforts to recapture a federally backed loan to a senior citizen of Tarboro who died while a long-term promissory note she had signed for a house still was in place.

The City of Rocky Mount did so following a Telegram story published Sunday about the woman’s son, Marvin Tyson, seeking to get relief.

Tyson is arguing his since-deceased mother, Estella Tyson-Bell, signed the paperwork for the loan a little more than a month after her previous house was torn down more than a decade ago.

“And to me, that’s the proverbial gun to the head because it doesn’t matter what the promissory note says then, because she has no place to live,” Marvin Tyson told the City Council during the public comment phase of the council’s regular meeting Monday.

Tyson called for the council to reconsider and waive the promissory note for his late mother’s replacement house.

What followed Monday at City Hall was municipal officials and council members spending more than half an hour on the subject.

Generally, a promissory note specifies the signer agrees to pay a stated sum to a specific person or the bearer of the loan at a specified date or on-demand.

Tyson-Bell received a HOME program loan via the Down East Home Consortium. The Down East consortium was formed in the mid-1990s as a way for local governments in the Twin Counties to collectively obtain HUD funding to rehabilitate houses.

The City of Rocky Mount is the lead entity in the Down East consortium and, in turn, is responsible locally for making sure there is compliance with HUD regulations. The HOME program provides funds on a reimbursable basis to provide decent affordable housing to low-income households.

During Monday’s council meeting, City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said she was going to ask interim City Community and Business Development Director Peter Varney to come to the speaker’s podium “and explain some of the issues that have been misreported in the newspaper and also communicated not only to you, but to the general public as well as the Edgecombe County commissioners.”

But first, Small-Toney made a statement based on what she said is correspondence the city received from HUD in Washington, D.C.

Small-Toney said the reason why she thought it was important to do so is because “I have to take exception to anyone impugning the integrity of this administration — and the program funds that we administer to help people when they need decent and affordable housing.”

Small-Toney said Kevin Bush, the deputy assistant secretary for grant programs at HUD, told Marvin Tyson in correspondence April 6 that HUD does not have the authority to require the Down East consortium to forgive the HOME loan to Estella Tyson-Bell.

Small-Toney also said that the correspondence made clear there is no evidence the Down East consortium either acted inappropriately or misled Tyson-Bell in executing the loan.

Both Small-Toney and Varney also told the council the loan did not come via the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program as the Telegram reported Sunday.

Varney went on to provide the council a timeline of what happened in the case of Tyson-Bell.

Varney said Tyson-Bell signed a 20-year promissory note with terms specifying a principal of $70,000, secured by a deed of trust, and received her replacement home at the site of her previous home.

Varney said the terms specified there would not be any interest charged or any payment required during the first 10 years. He said the terms specified that over the next 10 years there would be a reduction of 10 percent each year on the $70,000 principal, with there being no balance due by the end of the 20 years.

Varney said that in December 2009, Tyson-Bell applied to participate in the HOME program and that in July 2010 the property was inspected. A determination was made that replacing the house with another one would be the most cost-effective method of spending the money.

Varney said that Tyson-Bell was shown various plans for the construction of a new house. In July 2010 she selected a plan and the next month Edgecombe County opened the bids submitted for the work.

Varney also noted that a relocation assistance arrangement was made so Tyson-Bell could live elsewhere at no cost while the work was ongoing.

Varney said that Tyson-Bell moved out of her then-house in September 2010 and her then-house was demolished. She signed the promissory note and the deed of trust in October 2010.

Varney told the council that during the process, there was a problem because the deed was not formatted in a way as required to be on file with the Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office, so there had to be a second signing.

Varney said that Tyson-Bell moved into the new house in March 2011.

The Telegram in the story published Sunday quoted Marvin Tyson as saying he learned the deed was never recorded.

Varney told the council Monday the deed is recorded with the Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office and he provided the date and the page numbers.

Estella Tyson-Bell died in February 2020 at the age of 80, less than a decade through the HOME loan agreement.

During Monday’s meeting, Councilman Reuben Blackwell asked whether the transaction with Tyson-Bell in 2010 was unusual.

Varney said no and added he is not aware of any exceptions to or deviations from policies about the construction of new houses since the Down East consortium was formed.

Blackwell also wanted to know about the steps for an appeal process by the Tyson family.

Varney said there would need to be a meeting by the Down East consortium and a request made to the consortium for a reconsideration.