The Douglas County Housing Partnership has used federal Community Development Block Grant funding to offer down-payment assistance for first-time home buyers and help provide affordable senior housing.
In 2015, the multi-jurisdictional housing authority — which connects businesses and local and county government to address the issue of the lack of affordable housing for people who work in the area — received $310,000, the largest individual CDBG grant in the county, for its supportive housing program.
With CDBG funding, the partnership has added 10 families per year to the program. But with the Douglas County Board of Commissioners’ June 28 decision to decline all CDBG funding in 2016, Diane Leavesley, executive director of the partnership, said the program will be severely limited and some aspects are uncertain.
“Beyond 2015 funds we will only be able to continue this program with money from when a family repays their loan,” Leavesley said. “No new money will be coming in.”
In 2015, Douglas County received $1 million in CDBG funding, which was disbursed to nonprofits, governmental and quasi-governmental agencies to improve the physical, economic and social conditions for low- and moderate-income residents or assist in low-income areas.
Other local organizations that fund programs through CDBG dollars are the Douglas/Elbert Task Force, the Parker Task Force, Sedalia Water & Sanitation District and DC Cares.
Of the 22 applications received for the 2016 grant program, Douglas County staff recommended approval of 15 projects with a total distribution of $732,365. But these projects will no longer be funded by federal dollars.
Citing concerns with pending federal Department of Housing and Urban Development rules tied to the CDBG program, the commissioners voted to end a 13-year run as a CDBG entitlement community effective with the 2016 program year.
The county, however, is looking for alternative funding.
The decision comes after years of fighting for congressional action in Washington as well as meeting with and submitting formal comments to HUD regarding what the Board of County Commissioners refers to as “unreasonable, unachievable, ill-conceived rules attached to CDBG funding.”
“For years, we've been fighting alongside like-minded members of our Colorado congressional delegation, as well as other members of Congress nationwide on this overreach by the federal government,” said county commissioner and board chairman David Weaver. “We articulated our concerns directly with HUD officials, fought to be heard on the record and as part of congressional testimony, and could not change the course.”
Douglas County is not the first community to leave the grant program.
Last Aug. 18, the Town of Castle Rock was given the option to become its own entitlement community separate from Douglas County. The town had the option to receive $212,000 of its own CDBG funding to distribute to Castle Rock residents, but because of concerns with the new HUD regulations and what it considered possible federal overreach, the Castle Rock Town Council declined to participate in the 2016 program.
The county sent a letter to HUD on Aug. 17, one day before the Castle Rock decision, identifying concerns with the new tool. The hope was that improvements and adjustments to the tool could be made, said Terence Quinn, director of community development for Douglas County, at a previous county meeting.
“This federal agency is practically reinterpreting and changing the intent of the Fair Housing Act,” stated Commissioner Jill Repella at the June 28 meeting. “I have significant concern with the new assessment tool that is in play right now. We need to continue to work with our congressional delegation and fight this battle,”
Recognizing the impact of the board's decision on applicants for the CDBG funds, Repella offered a motion requesting a work session with staff aimed at evaluating grant applicants' 2016 CDBG funding requests and exploring alternative funding approaches.
“This county has been very proactive and creative in partnering with community organizations consistent with furthering our community services board goal,” Repella said.
The board goal that Repella is referring to requires that the county ensure conditions exist so that county programs and public/private partnerships foster an effective safety net for the basic needs of qualified residents, and that basic and essential services exist that provide people the opportunity to be self-sufficient.
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