Hollidaysburg to use CDBG funds for housing repairs

HOLLIDAYSBURG — With the intention of targeting deteriorating homes, Hollidaysburg Borough Council members voted Thursday to allocate grant funds to low- to moderate-income homeowners who need to make repairs.

At an evening meeting, Borough Manager James Gehret presented a housing rehabilitation project to council members, who were tasked with choosing where to spend Community Development Block Grant funds.

Community Development Block Grants are made up of federal funds, which trickle down from the state to the county and eventually to local municipalities.

In 2017, the borough is to be allocated $96,484, according to Trina Illig, Blair County’s CDBG program administrator.

That is about $1,100 less than what was allocated in 2016, she said.

The county takes 18 percent of that allocation to cover administrative fees, Illig said. That leaves $79,117 for borough use.

Councilman Joseph Dodson took issue with those administrative fees.

“Are they going to put that into the clocktower?” Dodson said, poking fun at expensive, extensive and ongoing repairs to the county courthouse.

Gehret told council members that several projects were reviewed, and one stood out among them.

“Since we have a lot of issues with people’s houses and maintaining their houses, we are looking at housing rehab,” he said.

That suggestion would put the borough in line with other area municipalities, which allocate their funds to low- to moderate-income homeowners to make repairs.

“This is something that is very popular,” Gehret said.

Illig said 18 borough properties currently meet criteria to qualify for the discussed housing rehab funds.

Typically, each qualifying home would be allocated up to $24,000 to bring their homes up to federal housing guidelines, Illig said.

Anything beyond that $24,000 must be covered at the homeowner’s expense, she said.

Illig said the borough used to offer the CDBG funds for housing rehab, but it has been years since that was the case.

Last year, borough officials chose to allocate a portion of the CDBG funds to low- to moderate-income homeowners who must make mandated sewer repairs — a contentious project among Hollidaysburg residents.

Gehret explained that sewer project deadlines have made that an impossibility this year.

“By the time we get the funds, those deadlines may be closed,” he said.

Councilwoman Stephanie Wertz asked whether grant funds could be used retroactively to pay for sewer upgrades. Gehret’s answer was no.

“Any projects that are done before you have the money, you can not reimburse yourself (for),” he said.

Ultimately, council members voted unanimously to use CDBG funds for housing rehabilitation.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.