Public input eyed on block grant use
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Jan 31, 2014 | 892 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cleveland Community Development office is asking for input on how Community Development Block Grant funds should be spent.

The grant money is administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A public meeting was held Thursday as part of developing the five-year consolidated plan for using the grants. The plan will then be reviewed on an annual basis.

Paul Johnson of The Housing Fund, based in Nashville, is assisting with the compilation of the plan and presented an overview of the block grant program.

The condition of existing homes and rental properties in specific areas were the main concerns voiced by community members at Thursday’s meeting.

Data presented during the gathering showed there are more people renting in Cleveland than own their own home.

Paul Dellinger of the Cleveland Housing Authority said owners of rental properties in target areas, areas where it has been determined block grants could be used, need to be held accountable for keeping rental houses in good condition.

City Councilman Bill Estes said the majority of the housing units in the block’s target areas are rental properties. He said some have “high concentrated areas” of poorly kept rental properties. Estes said he wanted to see specific data on individual neighborhoods.

Johnson said the information would be available as the process moves along.

Matt Carlson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, said much of what the organization has done in recent years has been helping non-Habitat homeowners make needed repairs. (These repairs are made through the organization’s “Brush with Kindness” program.)

“We have an aging housing stock here, for renters [and] homeowners that needs to be worked on, in the CDBG area especially,” Carlson said.

Carlson said many homes and rental homes in the block grant target areas have been handed down from generation to generation.

One resident spoke to this as she described a burned-out house and empty houses on her street. She said her house had been handed down through her husband’s family.

Johnson said the houses probably have some issues that could be addressed through codes reinforcement. However, he said some are older owners living on a fixed income and may not be able to make the repairs; Carlson agreed.

CDBG funds can be used for projects that help provide decent housing, economic opportunity or a suitable living environment. The project must also “benefit low to moderate income persons, aid in prevention of slum and blight” or address an urgent need, according to Johnson’s presentation.

Input has been gathered from numerous local organizations.

In 2013, Cleveland received $353,451 in funding. How much money an area receives is based on a national formula looking at cost of housing, percentage of residents who make less than 80 percent of the median income for the area and the percentage of residents paying more than 30 percent of their annual income for housing, whether through renting or home ownership.

In the past, block grant funding has been used for drainage improvement recreation improvements, sidewalks, cleaning vacant lots, assisting families with making downpayments houses, paying a code enforcement inspector, etc.

Goals set during last year’s review of the plan were to improve recreational opportunities in low to moderate income neighborhoods, to use code enforcement to improve look and economic opportunity and to acquire land to provide affordable housing.

Part of developing the consolidated plan involves a fair housing study of the area. The study gathers data on affordable housing and housing needs.

A survey on affordable housing and fair housing is also being given. Copies of the survey can be picked up at the Cleveland Municipal building front desk or at the Development and Engineering Community Development office. Completed surveys should be returned to the same locations.

The survey may also be acquired by emailing community development coordinator Teresa Torbett at ttorbett@clevelandtn.gov. Suggestions for using bock grant funding can also be sent to this email address.

The entire consolidates plan must be submitted by Cleveland to HUD by May 15.