Last Thursday, September 7, the Senate approved legislation to raise the debt limit and allow for an additional $15.3 billion in disaster relief funds. About half of this – $7.4 billion – will go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to respond to the wreckage incurred by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma these past weeks. Another half will be allocated to Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These block grants are a core part of HUD's mission to provide affordable housing, create programs benefiting low- to medium-income households, encourage community development, and make improvements to infrastructure in underserved neighborhoods. However, Community Development Block Grants and its Disaster Relief Program are cut from President Trump's proposed 2018 budget. The disaster relief money would specifically come from flexible grants, the CDBG-Disaster Recovery funds, but by and large, these funds go to to private homeowners, not renters. 70% of the funds must go to low-income households. Renters can apply for disaster vouchers through HUD's Disaster Voucher Program – although the seat for the position overseeing this program is currently vacant, and the Trump administration hasn't nominated anybody for the role. Although Congress still hasn't approved the 2018 budget cuts, funding for HUD's block grants has already been decreasing over the years – according to CityLab's reporting, "by 80% since 1979 in 2016 dollars." It's worth noting that the block grants also aren't a perfect solution – they calculate need based on a formula dating back to 1974. But their proposed elimination leaves us wondering what assistance will be available to low-income households outside of FEMA funds, which can have a notoriously slow trickle-down.
Posts tagged with "Community Development Block Grants":
For many homeowners and landlords, big ticket repairs can leave gaping holes in the budget. For many low income homeowners, mending a leaky roof or weatherizing an older home can be prohibitively expensive. Vital repairs go unmade, damaging the structure and exposing residents to mold and weather extremes. Responding to this challenge, the Design Advocacy Group, a coalition of planners, architects, and activists, founded the Healthy Rowhouse Project (HRP) in 2014. HRP is a nonprofit organization that helps Philadelphia's low income homeowners and renters maintain their properties. The project's goal is to spend up to $5o million each year to weatherize and de-mold 5,000 homes, at a cost of $10,ooo per home. The project will be supported and funded through grants from the Oak Foundation, an anti-homelessness organization based in Geneva. In Philadelphia, 38 percent of homeowners have an annual income of less than $35,000. Often, residents choose between living in a deteriorating structure, or abandoning the property and moving elsewhere. Experts estimate that a vacant home can bring down the value of adjacent properties by as much as $8,000. Philadelphia has an astonishing 40,000 vacant houses. The Design Advocacy Group initially approached homeowners in Mantua, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, about how they could benefit from the area's gentrification. Overwhelmingly, residents requested financial and technical assistance to maintain their homes. Philadelphia spends between $9 million and $13 million per year on community development block grants that go to low-income homeowners. Demand outstrips supply: applicants face a four year long wait list. What about building new housing? Traditionally, that is the role of the Community Development Corporation (CDC). HRP leader and fair housing advocate Karen Black noted in the Philadelphia Citizen that a typical CDC can only build around 30 units per year. The HRP, Black emphasized, is not building new housing, it is helping residents stay in their current homes. To realize this goal, HRP is creating an a la carte menu of repair options—deferred home equity loans, block grants, or, for renters, landlord assistance—that help residents access money to pay local contractors for repairs. The plan could work without buy-in from the city, but the project would really fly with the Mayor's and City Council's support.
Analysis shows rapper (and urban planning enthusiast?), Drake, loves cities, is really sad about suburban sprawl
Brentin Mock at CityLab has produced an absolutely insane and brilliant interpretation of Drake's 2015 single, "Hotline Bling." It turns out, according to Mock, that Drake is not signaling an appreciation for James Turrell, nor is he sad about an ex-girlfriend. Instead, Mock's line-by-line exegesis reveals that Drake is "sad about poor city planning." Mock suggests that Drake is in anguish because the song's subject, "Kid Suburb," left Baltimore for the suburbs, and her new environment has changed her for the worse. The analysis uses demographic data, cell service maps, commuter tax credits, urban history, and neighborhood rezoning policy to support his conclusion. For instance, take this excerpt from "Hotline Bling" and Mock's interpretation:
Ever since I left the city, you/ You got exactly what you asked for/ Running out of pages in your passport."When Kid Suburb [the ostensible subject of the song] lived in the city, it couldn’t get a federal grant to save its life," Mock wrote. "Since she left, the city has received 18 Neighborhood Stabilization Program grants totaling roughly $1.8 million, another $5 million in Community Development Block Grants, and about $20 billion in federal low-income housing tax credits worth of funding. (Her county’s council just passed a resolution banning any of those tax credits from being used in any of its jurisdictions, but that’s another story)." Just, wow.