Feds send $50M to help cities’ housing, community programs - East Valley Tribune: News

Feds send $50M to help cities’ housing, community programs

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Posted: Saturday, July 21, 2007 6:03 am | Updated: 8:09 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Arizona cities will receive roughly $50 million from the federal government this year to fund housing programs for low-income families, emergency shelters for the homeless and community development programs.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development officials announced the funding Friday.

Officials in Scottsdale and Mesa said the HUD funding held steady this year, despite threats that it could be cut.

Scottsdale will receive $1.2 million, and Mesa anticipates $3.9 million for community development.

“This was kind of hold harmless funding,” said Connie Jackson, Scottsdale’s human services director. “The federal government is always trying to cut these funds.”

The HUD funding is aimed at several programs, the largest of which is the Community Development Block Grant program.

The money helps pay for subsidized meals at Scottsdale’s senior center and has helped expand a child crisis center in Mesa, according to city officials.

With Mesa’s funding for human service programs at an all-time low, the federal funds are important, said Lisa Hembree, a city housing specialist. Mesa plans to use $300,000 in this year’s budget to pay code compliance officers in low-income areas of the city, which is typically footed by the city.

“If it was cut, it would hurt a lot of low-income people,” she said.

Federal support for the block grant programs has never been shakier than the last several years, city officials say.

Scottsdale officials drew up a plan recently so that the city could prepare for up to a 45 percent reduction in HUD grants.

Crisis centers, subsidized meals for seniors and other community programs rely on the federal funding, Jackson said.

The newest initiative in the HUD program is called the American Dream Downpayment Initiative, HUD spokesman Larry Bush said.

It helps first-time home buyers with down payments and closing costs on a home purchase.

The initiative was designed for people whose incomes are below the median for the area, and has assisted 24,000 households in the purchase of their first home, according to federal statistics.

The program is proven to help neighborhoods, Bush said. Children living in houses that are owned show higher success rates in school, he said. Households apply for the program through their city government.

“It stabilizes the community and stabilizes the family for homes to be owner-occupied,” Bush said.

How they fared

East Valley cities that received Community Development Block Grants:

Chandler: $1.4 million

Maricopa County: $2.2 million

Gilbert: $652,000

Scottsdale: $1.2 million

Tempe: $1.6 million

Mesa: $3.5 million

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