Lansing Council discusses housing grants, sped of work

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Bar graph presenting information about community development funding for the City of Lansing.

Total funds for community development in 2018-2019 as presented by the City of Lansing.

The Lansing City Council discussed the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, for the upcoming year April 8.

Planners discussed their action plan as the federal Housing and Urban Development department had yet to provide an official dollar amount for the grant. Planners used numbers from the previous year to estimate how much money they will be given.

Council President Carol Wood had several questions, asking planners if they were unable to use single-family owner-occupied housing rehab.

This is money used to assist homeowners with the repair, rehabilitation, or reconstruction of owner-occupied units.

Development Manager Donald Kulhanek said, “The majority of the money we get from HUD [U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development] goes into that particular category. That category covers more than just the single-family owner rehab.”

Wood said, “The reason I’m asking is because I know when I’m out in the community and people are talking about the program and we recommend people to go to the program is, unless it’s an emergency, we have almost a year’s waiting list. Is it because we don’t have enough staff to handle the number of requests? Is it the fact that we don’t have enough funds to handle the request? Or enough contractors to do the work?”

Kulhanek said the most pressing element was a lack of staff because priority is given to Lead Safe Lansing projects, a program to remediate lead-based paint hazards from homes and rental units occupied by children and pregnant women.

“There’s a lot of projects going on. Our guys are very, very busy in the field, but they tend to be smaller projects in terms of the overall money that is spent,” Kulhanek said. “When you say a year’s waiting list, there is substantial waiting list. I don’t know, nobody could know, how many on that waiting list we could serve with the funds we have available. You’d have to go through each project one at a time.”

Councilmember Peter Spadafore mentioned last year’s budget was $400,000 lower than the 2019-2020 budget to ensure accuracy for the funding.

“It’s not reflective of a flat budget,” Spadafore said.

“Our guess, if you will, is HUD is going to give us the exact same amount of dollars in the next budget year as they did the last one,” Kulhanek said. “What’s different in this document you’re looking at is our estimate of program income. That’s how much money we bring in. Our estimate of program income changed and then our estimate of previous year’s unspent dollars changed as well.”

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