Wichita City Council unanimously approves maintaining housing services programs

03/19/2013 10:34 AM

03/20/2013 6:56 AM

The Wichita City Council unanimously signed off Tuesday on a plan to maintain the city’s housing services programs in the face of a 5 percent cut in federal funding.

The 5-0 vote, with Mayor Carl Brewer in New York at a business summit and council member Pete Meitzner absent, kicks off a 30-day public comment period on the plan before final approval is expected May 7. The city’s budget for the housing services programs is due at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by May 15.

The plan – which covers 2013-14 expenditures for Community Development Block Grant, HOME Investment Partnership and Emergency Solutions Grant funds – essentially maintains the city’s housing services efforts with only small project cuts, said Mary Kay Vaughn, the city’s director of housing.

City staff is estimating funding at just under $4 million: $2,364,171 in Community Development Block Grant money, $223,388 in Emergency Solutions grant funding and $1,125,571 for HOME Investment partnerships.

The balance of the cut comes in CDBG money, about $205,000.

Some of those key housing programs will incur slight service cuts, Vaughn said. The program to aid first-time homebuyers will be able to serve 25 buyers in the next budget year, down from 27.

Another program to finance the acquisition and demolition of boarded-up houses and the reconstruction of new homes will support two projects, Vaughn said. A housing development loan program will serve four projects, down from seven.

A deferred loan program will remain in place, Vaughn said.

City officials originally expected an 8 percent cut in HUD funding for the projects, Vaughn said, based on estimates included in the government’s sequester cuts.

But on March 6, HUD officials told the city to plan for a 5 percent cut in funds, which will target programs with no other city funding sources, Vaughn said. Also included in the HUD budget is some funding for neighborhood city halls, neighborhood cleanups, housing repairs, youth job training and youth crime prevention.

The public, and the City Council, offered no comment Tuesday on the plan. But the council action opens a formal 30-day public comment period in which the public can view the written plan at City Hall, all Wichita Public Library branches and the city’s four neighborhood city halls. Comments, oral or in writing, must be received by the city by April 18.

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