PIQUA — The city held a public hearing Friday afternoon to update residents on Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding that is available for the city to apply for in 2016. With approximately 40 attendees, commission chambers were full.
“Today, I’m going to review all of the various funding the city can apply for,” Nikki Reese, development program manager, said. Reese went over a brief history of CDBG funding, stating that it has been around since 1974. It is administered at the federal level through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and through the state level by the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA), Office of Community Development (OCD).
“The city of Piqua is a direct city,” Reese said, explaining that the city receives a minimum of $75,000 of CDBG funding each year through the Community Development Allocation Program. Troy and Sidney are also direct cities.
According to Reese, all CDBG funding must result in one of the following objectives:
• Benefit people with low-to-moderate incomes (LMI)
• Prevent or eliminate slum and blight
• ODSA, OCD must spend 70 percent of the CDBG funding on benefiting LMI persons
• Local entities like the city of Piqua must spend 51 percent of their CDBG allocation funds in order to meet that 70 percent threshold
Examples of what qualifies a household as LMI include a one-person household with an income limit of $34,550, a two-person household with an income limit of $39,500, and a four-person household with an income limit of $49,350.
Reese explained how the city successfully received CDBG funding from the Community Housing Impact and Preservation Program (CHIP) last year after partnering with the Miami County Commissioners. The total grant was worth $850,000, and the city’s allocation of that amount was $526,000.
The funding is going toward the completion of four owner home repairs, nine owner private rehabilitations, three rental rehabilitations, and two rental home repairs. The target areas for this CHIP funding are the Southview neighborhood and Historic East Piqua neighborhood.
“The only unfortunate thing is the need is so great,” Reese said. “I’ve got a waiting list of almost 60 here in the city … Next year, we will be able to apply for CHIP funding again.”
It is likely that the city will once again partner with the Miami County Commissioners in order to receive more funding. According to Reese, the city can only receive up to $300,000 in CHIP funding if they apply for it by themselves. By partnering, that amount increases to $850,000.
The city was also able to obtain CDBG funding for the Southview Neighborhood Water Meter Replacement Project with critical infrastructure funds. The new water meters will be Advanced Metering Infrastructure Systems. With this system, meter readers will not have to go door-to-door and into homes to read meters. Instead, there will be a tower placed within the city that will communicate the information to the Utilities Office.
“The city’s doing this in phases,” Reese said, explaining that other parts of the city will receive these meters later as well.
Reese stated that the benefits of these up-to-date systems will include more accurate readings, quick detection of leaks, and fewer customer complaints.
“It’s a huge win for the city,” Reese said.
The city will be replacing 2,273 residential meters and 67 commercial meters within the Southview neighborhood.
According to the 2010 census, the Southview neighborhood is the only neighborhood in Piqua where the majority of the residents are LMI. Information provided by the ODSA states that the Shawnee neighborhood is 39.27 percent LMI.
“I think this neighborhood is definitely over 51 percent LMI,” Reese said. “Based on you guys being able to drive around and (see) the housing stock, you can definitely see there’s some discrepancies.”
The city is hoping to clear up these discrepancies, but it all depends on residents in that neighborhood completing an income survey. The city recently attempted to to complete an income survey in that neighborhood, but within the three-month time limit to complete the survey, the city only received back about half of the number of surveys that they needed.
For Shawnee, it was not the owner-occupied dwellings that gave the city too much trouble. It was the tenants who resisted when asked to fill out the income survey.
“It was the tenants that really pushed back,” Reese said, stating that the tenants’ frame of mind was, “We don’t care, it’s not a benefit to me.”
Reese added, “That is one thing we’re trying to get past.”
Reese explained that the city will attempt to complete another income survey for the Shawnee neighborhood. Reese is working with different community organizations to raise volunteers to possibly go door-to-door to find people to fill out the income surveys.
If the survey shows that the majority of Shawnee is LMI, Reese will apply for a critical infrastructure grant to be used to address storm water issues in that area. It could also be used to improve parks and streets within that area as well.
The city is planning on applying for CDBG funding from the Downtown Revitalization Program for 2016. The available funds through that program will be $300,000. If the city is able to receive that funding, it will be used for improvements to the interior and exterior of downtown businesses.
Reese stated that businesses downtown were interested in applying for the program. It would provide them up to $10,000 in grant money as long as the $10,000 was no more than 50 percent of the project costs. After that, the business owner could apply for a 10-year loan with a 2 percent interest rate. The loan can go up to $40,000 as long as it is no more than 50 percent of the project cost.
Reese used the example of an improvement project costing approximately $40,000. The business owner would have to match $20,000. The owner would then receive a $10,000 grant and a $10,000 loan.
Friday’s meeting was the first required public hearing in the CDBG application process. A second public hearing will be held prior to the submission of any grant applications, such as for the Downtown Revitalization Program.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall