CITY HALL — The City of Santa Monica wants to hear residents’ input on the preferred uses for chunk of federal money totaling about $1.3M per year.
The City is in the process of preparing a new Five Year Consolidated Plan for the use of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. Both are funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
City staff will attend several commission and committee meetings in the coming weeks to gauge the community’s priorities for the money. The first meeting will be on Nov. 17 at the Social Service Commission (7 p.m. in the Civic Auditorium East Wing located at 1855 Main St.) and the plan will eventually be heard by the City Council.
“We’re looking for public feedback on what is the priority for this money and how has that changed from five years ago and should we focus on other things,” said Housing Manager Barbara Collins. “This is not an insignificant amount of money, it’s $1.3M each year and we want to make sure we have all the public input.”
In addition to the five year consolidated plan, the City files an annual action plan detailing the use of the grant money. According to last year’s report, City Hall’s objectives included: expand housing opportunities for extremely low-income, very low-income, low-income, and moderate-income households through an increase in the supply of decent, safe, and affordable housing and rental assistance and services to sustain housing for special needs populations; support efforts to help homeless or near-homeless Santa Monica residents secure adequate temporary and permanent housing and receive necessary supportive services; infrastructure improvements for persons with disabilities, seniors, pedestrians and bicyclist; and improving accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Specific uses of the money included providing about 25 households with a rental subsidy, repairing or rehabilitating about 20 homes, providing 240 homeless residents with support services, installing adaptive home equipment modifications in 30 homes and construction of four traffic circles.
Collins said the money is about more than just housing, it’s supposed to help make the city more accessible. She said construction of the accessible playground in Ocean Park and the bathrooms on the beach were both made possible by the grant money. While a portion of the money is used to help provide housing options, some is used to make existing housing more stable and/or easier to use for disabled residents.
Senior Administrative Analyst Sergio Ramirez said the public meetings would provide an opportunity for residents to learn about the current spending priorities and give their thoughts. While the money has been distributed for years, the amount has steadily shrunk due to cuts at the federal level. As each public commission or committee has a different focus, Ramirez said they expected to hear slightly different priorities for the reduced cash.
“We’re going to all the commissions with the presentation to let them take a look at the action plan and we hope each group will focus on their constituency,” he said.
Collins said circumstances do change over time but as the city has been receiving the money for many years, much of it is already spoken for in ongoing programs. She said staff certainly wanted to hear if priorities have changed but she warned that drastic shifts could reduce vital services for some residents.
“We don’t necessarily anticipate what people will say,” she said. “But we want to start out by saying, this is not a whole new pot of money, this has been funds the city has received for many, many years, and it’s already being utilized to support services in the community. The public input maybe to shift priorities, but by shifting them it may create a gap. Ultimately it will go to council. There will be differences of opinion about what to do and what the priority will be but we hope we see some trends in these meetings.