Survey is first step in city’s revamped CDBG process

The city is revamping the process for allocating Community Development Block Grant funds.

Last year’s round of allocations exposed flaws in the process, including conflict of interest concerns and resulting in a review by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

City staff has proposed major changes to the CDBG’s allocation process, beginning with public input.

Staff in the Planning and Community Development department have developed a survey to gather community thoughts and ideas on how the CDBG funds should be allocated.

City staff proposing major changes to CDBG process; HUD looking at additional potential conflicts

The city’s CDBG program is designed to meet low income housing and community development needs. The federal funds for the program come from HUD, which also sets the project eligibility standards and other requirements.

CDBG award on commission agenda, others have been recently approved

The survey started rolling out this week and on Wednesday, Tom Micuda circulated copies during the Downtown Development Partnership meeting and the Council of Councils meeting. Micuda is the deputy planning director and the Council of Councils is a regular meeting of representatives from each of the city’s nine neighborhood councils and City Commission representatives. Both meetings are open to the public.

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The first survey question asks respondents if they’d like to see CDBG and HOME funds used to target geographic, focusing on certain low to moderate income areas in the city; target specific needs, focusing on certain priorities areas such as affordable housing or  economic development; or a blend of both strategies.

HOME funds also come through HUD and support efforts to meet low income housing needs.

City Commission to consider agreement for additional audit services for CDBG complaints

The city’s CDBG and HOME allocations fluctuates annually and the amount is set at the federal level. During last fiscal year, the city received $710,552 in CDBG funds and $185,585 in HOME funds.

Another change to this year’s process is that the city is taking back funding that was contracted out to the Great Falls Development Authority and NeighborWorks Great Falls for revolving loan funds.

City retains independent accountant for CDBG review

That ups the city’s pot of available funding to $1.4 million, Micuda said.

“That’s a significant increase in what we can do for the community,” he told the Council of Councils. “There’s a lot of ways we can spend the money, the important thing is that we hear from you.”

HUD declines funding for Paris Gibson Square in controversial CDBG process

Survey responses will be collected through February and staff will compile them to develop a proposal based on priorities identified in the responses. Micuda said staff is hoping to to take their proposal to the City Commission in late March or early April.

The commission will set the broad goals based on those priorities and projects that best meet those goals will be selected for funding under the new process, Micuda said.

City staff propose changes to ethics policies, creation of ethics board in response to conflict of interest issues

Commissioner Mary Moe attended the Council of Council meeting and said “this seems like a real opportunity for the neighborhood councils to have more input at the commission level.”

Moe and Commissioner Owen Robinson are delegates to the Council of Councils.