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Council drafts plan for community needs, HUD funding

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The City Council began the process Tuesday of a consolidated plan for community development, which directs the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnership for the next five years.

As a requirement of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the plan needs to identify the community needs, prioritize those needs and detail how they will be addressed. For the upcoming fiscal year, the two programs will provide nearly $482,000 in funding.

The proposed action plan directs 49% of the funding to increase supply of affordable housing through the owner-occupied rehabilitation program and acquiring, rehab and resale program. About 20% would go to improve public facilities and infrastructure for the Lash Drive sidewalk construction and Park Avenue Community Center debt payment. To assist public service agencies, 11% would be directed and divided out to Rowan Helping Ministries, Family Crisis Council, Rowan Community Care Clinic and Gateway Freedom Center. For the down payment assistance and counseling program, 5%, or $20,000, will go to help provide opportunities for home ownership.

The last 16% would go toward effectively planning and administering the programs.

Councilman David Post inquired if the administrative costs at the rate are normal for the HUD programs.

Planning Director Hannah Jacobson said there is a 20% cap for the CDBG program that can be spent on planning and administration. 

“It is fairly standard,” Jacobson said. “These are some challenging programs to administer. A lot of this fund goes to the staff at the CDC (Salisbury Community Development Corporation).”

The program’s target areas are Jersey City, West End, East End, Park Avenue and newly added North Main district.

The city conducted surveys and public input sessions to determine the community priorities. The high-priority activities for the funds are:

• Construction of new affordable housing (infill development).
• Homeownership assistance, such as down payment assistance for lower-income homebuyers and new home buyers.
• Develop, improve or install public facilities such as a senior center or community center.
• Code Enforcement in deteriorating or deteriorated areas.
• Funding for public services, including job training and employment services, health care and substance abuse services, child care, crime prevention and fair housing counseling.
• Rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes.
• Sewer and water infrastructure improvements and other basic utilities.

City Councilman David Post said he was surprised by the last priority. Jacobson said she was too.

Jacobson said the most common housing problem in the needs assessment was cost burden, which is spending 30-50% of household income on housing. Severe housing cost burden is spending more than 50%.

In Salisbury, 36% of households are cost-burdened. Of that, 19% are in the severe cost burden category.

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins asked how Salisbury compared to other jurisdictions, adding average doesn’t make the city OK.

Jacobson said she didn’t have the numbers immediately available.

Mayor Karen Alexander said cost burden is agreed to be the no. 1 issue across North Carolina communities.

The needs assessment also determined black and African American households, at 49%, are almost twice as likely to be cost-burdened compared to white households. Approximately 40% of Hispanic households have some level of cost burden.

Jacobson said the city has a high vacancy rate, with 19% of homes unoccupied. Of those vacancies, she added, 20% are because of substandard conditions.

Salisbury also has a majority renter population, with city’s housing stock made up of 6,240 owner occupied units and 6,415 renter-occupied units.

Post compared the two statistics, saying the city has a couple thousand vacant houses and about 500 of those are because of condition.

A public comment period on the draft plan is open until June 13. The council will consider adopting a plan at the June 16 meeting to make the deadline to submit to HUD by July 15.

To review and provide comments on the draft plan, visit salisburync.gov/housing. Hard copies of the plan are available at City Hall, City Office Building, West End Community Center and the Rowan Public Library.

Comments can also be submitted to Jacobson by email at hannah.jacobson@salisburync.gov or by mail Attn. Hannah Jacobson, 132 N. Main St., Salisbury NC 28144.

Other business:

• The council authorized the sale of a parcel in the 400 block of Freedom Drive to Paola Guadalupe Guerrero-Alonso for $5,000. Her plans are to build on the lot.

• Alexander proclaimed National Prevention Week, National Public Works Week and Veterans Memorial Day.

• In the consent agenda, the council approved a budget ordinance amendment to appropriate a $20,000 donation for tennis court lights at City Park.

• The council went into closed session to consult with the city attorney but did not take any action.

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