Harper Woods to receive Community Development Block Grant funds

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published February 16, 2018

HARPER WOODS — The city of Harper Woods will be making some local improvements thanks to money from a Community Development Block Grant.

The city will receive its usual distribution of money, as well as potentially receiving more funds later in the year. The initial distribution is $87,482 in total, and it will be split across four different areas of need.

“This (initial) portion is not different than (what we have received in) other years,” explained City Manager Randolph Skotarczyk. “This is the usual distribution, and it’s money that comes from the (U.S.) Department of Housing and Urban Development through the county. We are required to have a meeting to discuss how the money will be used … which we did at the City Council meeting on Feb. 5.”

A sum of $36,733.80 from the initial Community Development Block Grant will go toward the rehabilitation of local homes. This is being done to homes that meet certain criteria to increase their value, which in turn brings in more local taxes. 

“Our strategy in Harper Woods is to build value into the homes where people are requesting loans, and focusing on code items and making sure the home is airtight with new windows and new doors. Improving curb appeal, fixing driveways and driveways which are cracked. We also want to fix garages,” said Ty Hinton, the Harper Woods economic and community development director. “The whole idea is that after (homeowners) have lived in the home for the affordability period, which varies (from) person to person, and can show it is their primary residence, (they are) in a position when they want to sell the home (to sell it) for a higher price to bring up the comparative value of the neighborhood.”

The city will be putting $12,000 into transportation assistance for seniors and those with mobility difficulties.

“The senior and handicapped transportation assistance service, Harper Woods Connect, is where this money will be going to,” said Skotarczyk. “It’s badly needed for our senior and handicapped residents. It’s a bus service that can pick them up, take them to appointments and bring them home. It’s operated by the Services for Older Citizens (organization).”

Another $30,000 will go toward Americans with Disabilities Act-approved ramps and sidewalk improvements.

“We identify locations in need of new ADA ramps, and sidewalks in need of improvements such as the rumble strips installed for visually impaired people, or sidewalks that need to be adjusted to meet angle standards and similar points,” said Skotarczyk. “The difference this year is the program is open to anyone who meets the HUD low-to-moderate-income requirements. We go out and assess the value of the repairs that need to be done, and then the work gets done and we are reimbursed all the money we spend through the grant.”

Up to 10 percent of the money is allowed to go into program administration for these efforts, and $8,748.20 will go toward administration in Harper Woods.

The second distribution will be applied for by Harper Woods officials to further assist with community improvement.

“Because some cities weren’t able to expend their funds, that money is then redistributed by the county, and there will be a second round of community block grant distributions,” said Skotarczyk. “We applied for $100,000 to use for home remodeling. These would be owned homes, and the rehabilitation is needed for things like gutters, the foundation or other factors that affect home values. … The second round of money hasn’t been secured yet, but because of our high (rate of) success in our home rehabilitation programs, we are optimistic to get money from this second round of distributions.”

Hinton said the effects of this funding cannot be underestimated.

“Without this money, we can’t do these kinds of improvements while maintaining the policy of not having the residents have to pay (the rehabilitation money) back to the city, which is what this money is partially being used for,” he said. “It’s crucial to help residents who are selling their homes and is just as important to boosting home values for local neighborhoods.”

Skotarczyk agreed.

“This is an important program for people who are in need, even in communities like some of our neighbors who are more financially well-off than we are,” said Skotarczyk. “There was talk when some of this money wasn’t getting spent by some communities that it should get cut down, but it does so much good for so many people.”