The Charlottesville Planning Commission has recommended using more than a quarter-million dollars in available federal funding for pedestrian improvements in one of the city’s low-income neighborhoods.
“Community Development Block Grant funds will be used in the city to conduct pedestrian improvements in the 10th and Page neighborhood, economic development activities and several public service projects that benefit low- and moderate-income citizens,” commission Chairman Kurt Keesecker said Tuesday.
For decades, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has distributed money across the nation using the Community Development Block Grant program. Furthermore, the HOME Investment Partnerships Program provides money to nonprofit organizations to assist with affordable housing programs.
The proposed Community Development Block Grant for next fiscal year is $371,309, and the amount from HOME is $58,520. The latter includes a 25 percent match from city funds.
Charlottesville rotates block grant funding between different neighborhoods that qualify, and these areas often receive attention for several successive years.
For the fourth year in a row, the priority neighborhood for fiscal year 2018 is the 10th and Page neighborhood. In addition to the new allocations, Howard said the priority neighborhood fund has $358,939 in unused funds.
The additional money will be used for several streetscape projects; its use is guided by an advisory group made up of residents.
“The 10th and Page Task Force has come up with a few priorities to allocate the current funding [toward],” said Tierra Howard, a grants coordinator in the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services. “One project of priority is doing pedestrian improvements at the 10th and West Street intersection. The second priority is pedestrian improvements at 10th and Page.”
The other projects are beautification of a city-owned lot at the corner of Eighth Street and Hardy Drive and better lighting at the dead end of Page Street.
“The task force will continue to meet on an as-needed basis to discuss additional priorities,” Howard said.
Howard said the 10th and West project should be ready to go out for bids by the end of the month.
Howard said the exact amount of funding for next year could change.
“Keep in mind that we will have to adjust for the actual entitlement amount depending on what HUD releases for our budget for our allocation,” Howard said.
If the funding holds, a total of $271,120 will be added to the priority neighborhood fund.
Last year, the funding was used to make the western sidewalk on 10th Street accessible to wheelchairs.
Not all of the money will go to streetscape projects.
The Community Investment Collaborative will receive $12,500 to assist 20 entrepreneurs with scholarships. The City of Promise would receive $17,000 for its Enrolled to Launch program. OAR-Jefferson Area Community Corrections would receive $14,696 for its re-entry services program, and the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area would get $24,000 for child-care subsidies.
No one spoke during a public hearing Tuesday.
Officials said this could be the last year for the programs. The Trump administration is planning deep cuts to these federal programs in future years.
“What’s proposed is a $6 billion cut in the HUD budget, which equates to about a 14 percent cut to HUD’s budget,” Howard said. “These proposed cuts would actually eliminate the CDBG and HOME programs.”
Trump’s budget proposal has not yet been finalized, but Howard is working on a report that will show how reductions could affect Charlottesville.
Commissioner John Santoski, executive director of the ARC of the Piedmont, said his organization has used this type of funding to advance its mission.
“We own a home that was purchased years ago using HUD dollars,” Santoski said. “Recently, we were a recipient of some CDBG money to help us renovate a home for women with severe and intellectual disabilities. Without those types of program, these are people who would not be able to afford to live within the city of Charlottesville.”
Santoski said he hopes local funding can make up the difference if federal sources are eliminated.
“We have some ideas about how things can be addressed,” said Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager. “We feel like we are in a better position than a lot of communities because we’ve got a community that puts a lot of resources into these types of activities.”