WATERLOO — Declining federal funding for low-income neighborhoods could take a bite out of the city’s efforts to fix up blighted homes.

The Waterloo Community Development Board is tentatively planning to slash money it earmarks to rehabilitate subpar houses for lower-income owners by more than 40 percent next year.

The board, which receives its funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has seen the federal Community Development Block Grant and HOME Program funding steadily decline since the 1990s.

City officials anticipate a 10 percent drop next year from the current CDBG and HOME funding streams, which were just under $1.7 million this year.

“We have really been shrinking in dollars, especially in the HOME allocation where it’s almost cut in half from less than 10 years ago,” said Community Development Director Rudy Jones. “That’s our challenge.”

A subcommittee of Community Development Board members has recommending a spending plan for next year’s CDBG and HOME funds, which will be subject to a Feb. 19 public hearing. The City Council ultimately approves the budget before it is submitted to HUD.

The proposed budget unveiled this week shows the money dedicated to the owner-occupied housing rehab program would drop from $861,500 to $494,910.

Jones said the impact on the housing efforts might not be as severe as it appears because the board still has funding from the current year allocated for home rehab that may carry over into fiscal year 2020.

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The proposed spending plan also includes $100,000 for down payment assistance for income-eligible home buyers. It maintains the current $75,000 for emergency home repairs and $85,000 to fund the neighborhood services program.

Many service-oriented programs were left out of the proposed grant stream, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Cedar Valley, Iowa Legal Aid and a home weatherization program run by Operation Threshold.

“We didn’t have that much money to give away,” said board member Don Share. “There was more (applicants) than we had money for.”

Barb Grant, executive director of Operation Threshold, said the weatherization program served 66 housing units last year.

“I would ask that you think about reconsidering that decision,” Grant told the board members. “But we do appreciate the partnership we’ve had all these years and the support that you have provided to help us help residents in this community.”

Operation Threshold is projected to get $20,000 for a program that helps lower-income residents secure rental housing through security deposit assistance.

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank, which was not funded this year, is expected to get $10,000 next year for the Cedar Valley Food Pantry, which provides food for some 2,400 local households each month.

“What the food pantry does in Waterloo and the Cedar Valley makes a difference in the lives of the people we serve,” said Barb Prather, the agency’s director.

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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