Updated Sun, Mar 16, 2014 5:33 pm
A state housing improvement grant program has undergone some changes and is encouraging cities to partner with counties to leverage more funds by submitting a single application.
Last week, Gregg Andrews, director of housing at Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action, discussed changes to the Community Housing Improvement Program with Athens City Council. He said the program has changed its name to the Community Housing Impact Preservation Program and underwent other changes over the summer of 2013.
According to Andrews, the state has decided to reduce the number of administrators for the program and is encouraging cities and counties to partner in order to reduce the number of applications for the competitive grants.
Community action administers the CHIP program for six entities: the city of Athens, Athens County, Nelsonville, the city of Logan, Hocking County and Perry County. The city of Athens received the grant last year to pay for 13 home repairs, three private owner rehabs and two rental rehab projects.
Typically, the city wouldn’t be eligible to apply for the two-year grant for another year, however Andrews said the state is allowing entities to apply two years in a row in order to sync up with other potential partners. In the case of Athens city, those potential partners are the county and Nelsonville.
Because the county and Nelsonville are eligible to apply for the grant this year, the state is allowing Athens to do so as well to get on the same rotation.
Andrews said by partnering, cities and counties are eligible for $50,000 in additional funding. For example, the city would be eligible for $350,000 on its own, or $400,000 if it partners with the county. The county is eligible for $400,000 alone or $450,000 with a partnership and Nelsonville would be eligible for $300,000 alone or $350,000 in a partnership. Andrews said the base funding level is based on population.
Andrews encouraged the city to partner with the county and Nelsonville to make a stronger application to apply for the funding. He said cities have never been able to apply for CHIP funding in back-to-back years in the past. Once the funding cycles are in sync, the city would go back to applying for the grant every two years.
According to Andrews, the county commissioners would be the suggested applicant on behalf of the cities and the county.
Although funding amounts could be higher, Andrews said the number of activities associated with CHIP have been greatly reduced. The current activities available under the grant include: rental home repair, private owner rehab, rental rehab, home repair, tenant based rental assistance and home ownership (down payment assistance and home rehab).
Councilwoman Michele Papai said that she’s a big supporter of the home ownership program in the city.
“Many people who are middle class cannot get into the housing market here,” she said.
Glen Crippen, community development coordinator at Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action, also updated Council on a new Community Development Block Grant program designed to fund critical infrastructure projects.
Crippen said he met with Andy Stone, director of the Athens’ Department of Engineering and Public Works, to identify possible projects that the grant could help fund. He said that the grant would fund up to $300,000 for infrastructure projects.
According to Crippin, Stone suggested a $400,000 sewage lift station repair project on Depot Street. He said that lift station serves the entire west side of the city and would be a great project for the grant.