Proposed Wayne County CDBG program changes could hurt cities

Photo by Sue Suchyta Allen Park City Manager Mark Kibby (second from left) explains at a Jan. 8 city council meeting how Wayne County’s proposed changes to the Community Development Block Grant program, which receives federal funding, will remove local control from the 34 eligible communities and will reduce the annual allocation to cities not considered distressed, as Mayor William Matakas (left), and City Council members Gail McLeod and Keven Rourke listen.

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – Proposed changes to the Wayne County Community Development Block Grant program will remove local control from cities, City Manager Mark Kibby told the City Council at its Jan. meeting.

Kibby said the proposed changes would favor distressed cities, which include Melvindale, Ecorse, River Rouge, Inkster, Hamtramck and Highland Park, but none of the funds will be allocated to cover the city administration costs for programs, as they were in the past, which would negatively impact all of the cities.

The CDBG Urban County Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is administered locally to 34 communities by the Wayne County Development Division, which is considering moving away from a formula model for allocating program funds to a Request For Proposals model.

Kibby said the new RFP model will not allow Allen Park and other non-distressed cities to meet the threshold required to receive project grants through the new program.

Allen Park has used CDBG money in the past to meet the needs of moderate to low income residents, senior citizens and residents with disabilities, Kibby said.

He said Allen Park has received more than $1.2 million in CDBG funds in the past nine years, of which $59,000 went to senior programs, $49,000 was allocated to home health care programs, $35,000 went to The Guidance Center, and $197,000 went to housing rehabilitation. The city’s street and sidewalk fund received $723,000, and the Allen Park Paluch Senior Citizen Apartments received $85,000 for parking lot repavement.

Kibby said the current program allows for 143 activities, which would be reduced to 55 under the new model, and city administration and planning funds would be removed from the allocation budget. Currently, participating jurisdictions are allowed to use up to 10 percent of the funds received to cover administration and planning costs.

The changes propose 55 projects, with 34 at $20,000, and 21 projects from RFPs submitted by PJs. RFP projects would emphasis those with area-wide benefit, such as those that would increase the supply of affordable housing and enhance housing stability.

RFP projects will be scored on the ability to provide priority public service, prevent homelessness, provide economic development opportunities and promote neighborhood improvement activities. Demolition, debris removal, code enforcement and historic preservation are considered eligible activities.

Other RFP priorities will include public infrastructure and facilities, which include senior centers, recreational facilities, community centers, road and sidewalk improvements, Americans with Disabilities Act improvements, and sewer improvements.

Projects which increase the supply of affordable housing, promote home ownership and promote local and region planning will also be considered for the RFP program, but with lesser weight than the other projects.

Kibby said the county commissioners need to know how each of the cities in the districts which they represent will be affected.

“It is very frustrating from my point,” Kibby said. “I think it is a great program.”

The city council passed a resolution at its Jan. 8 meeting stating its opposition to Wayne County’s proposed CDBG allocation changes.

Kibby said Allen Park will have a hard time qualifying for project funding, but may qualify for housing rehabilitation in eligible sections of the city.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)

Tags: