Affordable housing, homelessness, down payment assistance and rehabilitating older homes are all programs that can be targeted by federal and state dollars provided to the city each year through the Community Development Block Grant and State Housing Initiatives Partnership programs.
Under Planning and Community Development Director Catherine Hartley, the city is initiating a three-year plan to focus the limited funding into the most needed program. The city received $384,353 in CDGB funds and another $77,000 in SHIP dollars in its 2015-16 fiscal year.
City officials are in the process of determining the city’s greatest need, and a recent report on the city’s current housing situation will make that decision even harder because the city’s housing stock is aging.
It will be hard to choose. Ideally, we would want to do everything, but we aren’t in the everything business.
Councilman Patrick Roff
Vicki White, housing and community development manager, said almost half of the city’s homes were built prior to 1980 and only 24.5 percent were built after 1990. Many are even older and 329 homes, or 2 percent, report using no fuel for heating, 519 homes have no kitchen and 81 have no bathrooms.
Most of the older homes built prior to the 1950s are wood-frame structures experiencing issues with mold and insects. But even the older masonry homes have some of the same problems. Many of the older homes also are experiencing corrosion in older cast iron and galvanized pipes and lack adequate amps in their electrical systems, creating potential fire hazards.
Hartley said these factors will need to be considered as the council prioritizes CDGB and SHIP funding.
“Are we going to steer these dollars toward rehabilitation projects or help eradicate homelessness? These are the priorities that need to be set,” Hartley said. “This gives a little data that we have people in the city without sewer and are living in substandard conditions. We only have limited funding to figure out what we need to tackle.”
Affordable housing crosses the spectrum from millennials to older people wanting to age in place.
Catherine Hartley, planning and community development director
Councilman Patrick Roff has called for a financial analysis of what it would cost to address the rehabilitation program compared to the other programs.
“It will be hard to choose,” Roff said. “Ideally, we would want to do everything, but we aren’t in the everything business.”
Hartley said the city faces a big challenge in all categories, but has emphasized affordable housing from the day she was hired.
“Affordable housing crosses the spectrum from millennials to older people wanting to age in place,” Hartley said.
How the money was spent last fiscal year
According to the city’s annual CAPER report outlining how CDGB and SHIP funds are spent, some dollars addressed what city officials see for future spending and some did not.
Though the CAPER reports developing an action plan, “to move funds from nonperforming or under-performing activities to direct toward more effective uses,” most of the CDGB funding was provided to Centerstone for American with Disabilities Act improvements. The CAPER points out that those funds were expended “out of the target area.”
Gulfcoast Legal Services also receives CDGB dollars. The agency provides legal services to those facing foreclosure. Gulfcoast reports that need is falling off, but tenant-landlord disputes are on the rise. Funds will be redirected toward helping those facing evictions and discrimination. The city reports this spending as addressing the prevention of homelessness.
In addressing affordable housing goals, $77,500 of SHIP and CDGB dollars were provided to the Grand Palms senior affordable housing development under construction on 14th Street West. The city reports those dollars leveraged $9 million in private funding.
More than $153,000 was provided to Habitat for Humanity, which purchased four properties for affordable housing projects, two of which are under construction.