CITY HALL — City officials are seeking public input on a plan that will direct over $2.5 million in federal grant dollars toward affordable housing, homeless services and other community priorities.
The 2013-14 Action Plan lays out proposals by city officials in the Human Services and Housing divisions on how the money should be spent to meet goals laid out in what’s called the Consolidated Plan, a five-year document that provides broad outlines for certain federal funds acquired by Santa Monica.
The money flows from Community Development Block Grants and the HOME program, both housed under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Each year, city officials create an Action Plan to identify specifically where the money will be spent to move forward the goals laid out in the Consolidated Plan.
That provides flexibility both to achieve those goals and redirect unspent money from previous years to new projects, said James Kemper, project manager with City Hall.
“It’s anticipated that you start with a plan and then go through and switch around the allocations,” he said.
The big ticket item this year — coming in at $700,000 — would be the rehabilitation of two public bathrooms in Hotchkiss and Marine parks to make them accessible to people with disabilities.
Half of that money comes from last year’s allocation and would have been used to pay for repairs and rehabilitation of low-income housing units, which will get $510,000 for 2013-14.
Qualifying residents can use that to rehabilitate single-family homes and multi-family units, and for lead-based paint removal. The report estimates that 11,250 housing units in the city may contain lead-based paint, which the Environmental Protection Agency lists as the “most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today.”
Most homes built before 1960 contain heavily-leaded paint. The chemical attacks almost all of the body’s basic systems and, in high doses, can cause convulsions, coma and death.
Roughly $850,000 will go directly toward the production of affordable housing or toward housing vouchers and rental assistance programs targeting the neediest Santa Monicans.
The majority of that cash — $472,429 — will purchase four new mobile homes at the Mountain View Mobile Home Park, a 4.8-acre park owned by City Hall off of Stewart Street that holds 105 low-income and rent-controlled mobile home pads.
Another $310,000 will go toward assistance to keep seniors, people with disabilities and victims of domestic violence from falling into homelessness.
Smaller expenditures include money for homeless programs and roughly $101,000 for improvements to facilities used by Santa Monica seniors.
Although causes like homelessness don’t get much federal cash through City Hall, city officials directed approximately $7 million from its general fund to assist “special needs populations,” which include homeless individuals, the elderly and people with HIV and AIDS, according to the report.
In the grand scheme of things, HOME and CDBG funds are a help, but don’t scratch the surface on cash thrown at social issues by City Hall, Kemper said.
These days, however, every little bit counts.
Affordable housing production took a hit last year when the governor, state legislature and court system together struck down redevelopment agencies throughout the state and authorized the Department of Finance to take existing funds to plug budget holes.
Those agencies, funded through property taxes, were required to spend 20 percent of their money on the production of affordable housing. Santa Monica upped the ante on that, and the result was an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that derived 75 percent of its funding from the local redevelopment agency.
City Hall sued various officials in the Department of Finance in January to try to claw some of that money back.
Federal dollars have also become more scarce.
HUD cut 25 percent of the CDBG budget between 2010 and 2012. Although funding is bouncing back a bit this fiscal year to $3 billion, it’s still below the almost $4 billion level seen in 2010.
HUD will also be hit by the sequester, a budget balancing tactic passed into law in 2011 that required a 5 percent cut. That would equate to $212 million from HOME and CDBG programs, Shaun Donovan, the director of HUD, told National League of Cities members in March.
“In 2012 CDBG created or retained 21,800 permanent jobs and more than 32.5 million people benefited from CDBG,” Donovan said. “Sequestration would jeopardize those jobs and services.”
Those who want a say in how Santa Monica’s federal dollars are spent have until April 30 to get comments in on the plan.
Send comments by mail to 1685 Main St., Room 212, Santa Monica, 90401; by telephone to (310) 458-8701; TDD (310) 458-8696; or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residents can also attend the public hearing at the April 23 City Council meeting.