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Next 5 years of CDBG funding prioritized

Friday, March 6, 2020

Citizens and council agree on affordable housing, public services and public facilities as priorities for 2020-2024 federal housing dollars.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Entitlement Program provides federal funding to develop livable urban communities. The Consolidated Plan outlines how the City of San Marcos might use these funds for providing housing or expanding economic opportunities for people with low and moderate incomes. August 2020 is the deadline for choosing additional projects for the next funding year, so it is important to complete the CDBG Consolidated Plan as soon as possible. 

The Entitlement Program is one of three federal grants; the others, disaster recovery and mitigation, are in progress. Carol Griffiths, the City of San Marcos’ administrator over CDBG initiatives reports on the status of the grants and the feedback loop of conducting needs assessments and community engagement.

Council agreed to continue efforts of citizen engagement in the CDBG grants process including public forums, translated notices and summaries, and suggested working with key neighborhood stakeholders like Next Door and churches to get the word out.

Griffiths shared data from needs assessments and community input. Of 192 people who responded to the survey, the top three priorities were all in the public services category, with a huge emphasis on youth programs. However only 15% or $108,000 of the total budget, $722,904, can be spent on public services. Sixty-six percent said that the cost of fair housing and lack of fair housing was a serious issue. 

The common themes after public services were lack of affordable housing compared to income, home maintenance, accessibility to housing in stock, and a desire for workforce development efforts to increase income.

Staff recommended the priorities for the next 5 years of funding to be: affordable housing including rehabilitation, repairs, and land acquisition; public services for children, seniors, and workforce development; and public facilities, specifically parks. 

Council broadly agreed on these priorities with a few additions. Councilmember Mark Rockeymoore suggested including bus shelters to the public services section and Councilmember Maxfield Baker requested homebuyer loans be worked in since it was just cut from another budget. 

Mayor Jane Hughson said, “Housing is the huge need in our community. We have been working with partners who can provide public services such as workforce development. We certainly have improved some of our parks, we would like to focus on improving parks in underserviced areas.”

A draft of the CDBG Consolidated Plan  based on council’s direction will come back for approval at a later date.

Council approved the amended process unanimously for receiving grant funds for disaster recovery. Not enough San Marcos residents applied for CDBG disaster recovery funds, potentially because of income and location requirements. The amended eligibility requirements will now allow single family homes damaged by flooding anywhere in the city limits to apply, previously the funding was only available to homes in the floodplains.

Each change to the CDBG Disaster Recovery Action Plan must be approved by council which delays the process for citizens to receive their funds. Councilmembers Rockeymore and Marquez expressed concern for citizens who in the meantime have borrowed against their retirement or house for the repairs or have given up and sold their home. 

Council also approved the staff request to use $6 million of the funds for acquisition for the Blanco River Infrastructure Project, which does not change the total budget. 

For item 20, Griffiths presented the CDBG-Mitigation Action Plan draft that shows the breakdown of $24 million federal dollars for community resilience and mitigation: Preserving properties, $2.8 Million; addressing repetitive loss, $16.8 million; warning systems, $300,000; signs and barricades, $60,000. There are opportunities to reallocate funds, but the city is currently working to complete the action plan by April 3.

The plan was adopted unanimously.

San Marcos Record

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