City works on five-year HUD plan

The city Department of Community Development has begun working with a consultant to develop its next five-year plan for spending Altoona’s annual entitlement money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development — money primarily intended to benefit people with low-to-moderate incomes.

The consolidated plan sets goals and the means for attaining them to make best use of Community Development Block Grant funding, which last year amounted to $1.79 million, and HOME Investment Partnerships Program funding, which last year amounted to $306,000.

The city’s annual plans for spending CDBG and HOME money must match the priorities set in the five-year plan, according to the consultant, Walter Haglund, principal of Urban Design Ventures of Homestead.

The planners have been meeting with city department heads and representatives from area social service, housing and recreation agencies, along with representatives of economic-development and faith-based organizations, according to city CDBG Manager Mary Johnson.

They’re trying to determine “the unmet needs of the community,” Haglund said.

They’ve heard complaints that Prospect Pool is not accessible, about areas in need of more code enforcement, about clogged storm drains, crumbling sidewalks and curbs and that the city needs more affordable housing — especially for people with very low incomes Haglund and Johnson said.

There are people whose only income is $700 a month in Social Security paying $600 a month in rent, leaving little for food, utilities or anything else, said Haglund and Johnson.

Such people live under threat of eviction, Johnson said.

The planners were expecting to meet with additional agency representatives and were preparing to undertake a community-needs survey, available on the city’s website,

altoonapa.gov, under News/Announcements — the item titled “Community Development Needs Confidential Questionnaire.”

The survey asks residents to identify housing issues and recreational needs, whether their neighborhoods have problems with safety, traffic, litter, property maintenance or parking and whether the survey taker uses existing programs designed to help with mental health, addiction, homelessness or aging. The survey also asks residents to comment on employment opportunities, transportation services, crime and blight and to propose programs they’d like to see.

The expiring five-year plan calls broadly for promotion of decent housing, a suitable living environment and expanded economic opportunity.

Its “priority” goals for housing include increasing the supply of affordable, decent and accessible units, mainly through rehabilitation of owner-occupied and rental homes.

Its priority goals for community development call for rehabilitation and new construction of public infrastructure, projects that make that infrastructure accessible, creation and promotion of recreation and other programs serving the young, the elderly and disabled people, support of community policing and code enforcement in low-to-moderate areas and demolition of blighted properties.

Each year, the city must file a report evaluating how well it met the goals of the five-year plan with the projects funded for the previous year.

For the year ending June 30, 2018, the city’s Consolidated Annual Performance Evaluation Report cites an expenditure of $424,000 in CDBG money to rehabilitate nine owner-occupied single-family homes, of $117,000 in HOME funds to rehabilitate eight rental units and of $125,000 in HOME funds to rehabilitate six housing units owned by Improved Dwellings for Altoona — all to meet housing goals.

The CAPER also cites an expenditure of $505,000 for street resurfacing in low-to-moderate areas, of $14,000 for improvements at Hamilton Park, of $204,000 for the neighborhood bike patrol, of $54,000 on educational and informational services in low-to-moderate areas and of $233,000 for demolition of 10 blighted properties — all of CDBG funding and all to meet community development goals.

The new plan will go into effect July 1, 2020.

The city needs to submit the completed five-year consolidated plan to HUD by May, after it’s approved by City Council.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.