HUD increases grants to Wichita Housing Authority

Wichita’s housing efforts got a boost from the federal government Wednesday, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved more money for local housing rehabilitation.

HUD announced $758,829 in grants for the Wichita Housing Authority, a little more than $38,000 more than last year and more than local officials had budgeted for the work.

The grant, while $2,500 less than awarded to Topeka and a third of that awarded to Kansas City, Kan., will still help officials upgrade more public housing, said Mary K. Vaughn, the city’s director of housing and community services.

“The plan we submitted for construction includes replacing windows at one of our high rises and in some of our single family dwellings, and rehabbing three to five single-family units to update them,” Vaughn said.

“Since we just learned of the additional funds we haven’t had an opportunity to program them, and once we do, take those ideas to the tenant advisory board, and ultimately to the Housing Authority Board. Most likely we will use the additional funds to increase the number of units involved in either the window replacement or rehab work already planned.”

The city does not apply for HUD capital funds, Vaughn said. Instead, the city submits an annual capital plan as part of yearly planning. All capital projects in that plan are based on the prior year’s allocation – in 2013, about $720,500.

The additional money wasn’t expected, City Manager Robert Layton said, but it’s needed.

“It’s an ongoing challenge to keep our public housing maintained in the state we’d like it because of limited resources,” he said. “There continues to be a squeeze on the amount of federal money available for public housing.”

Vaughn had no comment on the awards to other Kansas cities.

“We are just grateful and thankful for the amount we will receive,” she said.

Wednesday’s HUD announcement comes from the agency’s Capital Fund Program, which annually pays for the building, repair, renovation and modernizing of public housing for about 3,100 housing organizations across the country.

Most use the federal money to finance big projects, like replacing roofs or energy-efficient upgrades.

“While the funding we announce today will never be enough to meet the tremendous backlog of capital needs, HUD will be working closely with the Congress to expand efforts to generate approximately $6 billion in private investment for the recapitalization of public housing,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a news release.

HUD has been financially supporting public and multi-family housing for more than 75 years. According to the HUD news release, the nation still loses about 10,000 public housing units each year due to disrepair.

A 2011 HUD study found that the nation’s 1.1 million public housing units needed $25.6 billion in repairs, the release said.