CDBG Action Plan Adds Funds To Demolitions

With the help of area residents, city development director Vince DeJoy has put together an action plan for the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs.

“I had residents coming in until today,” said DeJoy. “We discussed some plans that they had for acquiring houses through auctions and other means, as well as rehabilitation. That’s one of the areas that the Department of Housing and Urban Development and these home programs have been noted for, both owner occupied and rental rehabilitation. We got a lot of citizen input, and I think that we put together a plan that we can quickly administer to get the maximum benefit.”

A cursory look around Jamestown will reveal a number of houses that have been condemned in recent years, or have fallen into disrepair because of any number of reasons. According to DeJoy, targeted demolitions, specifically looking at those houses that are beyond saving, will be seeing more funding if this plan is approved.

“I think the need is there to eliminate some of these houses that just cannot be salvaged,” said DeJoy. “Many of these homes that you see condemned signs on, we’re trying to take them down as fast as we can. That’s one of the reasons that we programmed a little bit of extra money in that area.”

There was also money left over in the fund balance from previous program years for rental rehabilitation, which DeJoy says he will be aggressively trying to spend so that those lines can be refunded in future years.

“We’re still paying particular attention to the Americans with Disabilities Act improvements, infrastructure improvements are going to be more aggressive this year and we’re trying to replace some sidewalks that need curb cuts,” said DeJoy, of the other projects that will be targeted with CDBG and HOME funds if this plan is approved. “We’ll be more aggressive in infrastructure, more aggressive in demolitions and also getting all of these handicap-accessible projects completed.”

Earlier this year, the Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency was notified by HUD to expect up to a 5 percent reduction in funding to these programs due to sequester cuts. Although JURA has not been given a final number, this plan was conceived with consideration to decreased funding. There remains a possibility, however, that the final allocation could be adjusted in either direction.

“There isn’t any money set aside for citywide rental rehabilitation this year because we still have a backlog of some of those funds that have been unexpended,” said DeJoy. “I can’t give an exact number, but it’s significant enough that I think we really have to be aggressive to try to spend them down this year and next year.”

The citywide rental rehabilitation program aims to benefit low to moderate income renters by working with landlords to get them grants that will help to rehabilitate homes and rental units.

“We just need to be more aggressive in finding landlords that want to invest some money in their rental properties,” said DeJoy. “That’s one of my goals for this year. We just need to spend what we already have accumulated.”

With the action plan submitted, there will now be a 30-day public comment period. Then the plan will be taken to City Council to be ratified. After that, it’s submitted directly to HUD for approval.

“As soon as the resolution is certified by City Council, we send it in electronically,” said DeJoy. “It’s almost simultaneous.”

The Community Development Block Grant program was originally created by Congress through the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. Since its inception, Jamestown has effectively utilized more than $45 million provided through CDBG, HOME and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. For the 2013 fiscal year, DeJoy has planned to utilize $1,192,904 in CDBG and HOME funds, which will go to ADA improvements, targeted demolitions, infrastructure improvements, emergency repairs, facade improvements, building rehabilitation and administration costs.

For more information on the CDBG program, portal.hud.gov.