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December 10, 2012

Madison Heights prioritizes block grant monies

Community development funds will help residents in need

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

MADISON HEIGHTS — Money from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) can be used in many ways, from funding a code enforcement officer to helping qualifying individuals with minor home repairs and yard services. Now the city of Madison Heights has decided how to use its allotment for the fiscal year 2013-14.

The funds come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by way of Oakland County. As a sub-recipient, Madison Heights has received a planning estimate of $111,859: the same as 2012-13 and an increase from $110,579 in 2011-12.

As always, the final amount may be more or less, as determined by Congress, when they set the nationwide allocation during their budgeting process. 

“This is for next year,” said Jim Schafer, the city’s community development director. “What ends up happening is we’re typically told by the county to use the current year’s amount as a planning target, and then when we get the authorization, they’ll contact us and let us know if that amount has changed, and then we’ll adjust it at that time.”

In the meantime, the plan is to allocate the anticipated CDBG funding as follows:

• Code enforcement: This pays for 100 percent of the salary and fringe benefits of one code enforcement officer. It has been allotted $85,000: the same as 2012-13 and up from $79,579 in 2011-12.

• Minor home repair:  For example, a hot water heater in need of repair, a leaky faucet ramping up the water bill or an ash tree requiring removal. This fund, marked at $5,000 — the same as 2012-13, and up from $3,000 in 2011-12 — helps low- to moderate-income households remedy these and other “small items,” easing financial hardship incurred by the enforcement of ordinances and code violations.

• Public services (yard service): To help the elderly, handicapped and disabled with yard maintenance, this item, set at $15,000 — the same as 2012-13 and 2011-12 — will fund the Public Services Project so they can have snow shoveled, lawns mowed, etc.

• Rehabilitation administration: This helps pay for administrative expenses involved with the community housing and grants supervisor’s salary and fringe benefits as she works on the Home Improvement Loan Program, and is set at $6,859: the same as 2012-13 and up from $6,500 in 2011-12.

For the second year running, no funds are allotted for general program administration. The last time this activity was funded was 2011-12, when it was allotted $6,500 for the purposes of funding another part of the community housing and grants supervisor’s salary and fringe benefits. 

“What you’re seeing is a movement away from using these monies for administrative purposes, and putting them just toward the remaining items, which are code enforcement, minor home repairs and yard services,” Schafer said.

Romona Sanchez is the community housing and grants supervisor. She said the CDBG money helps the city’s residents in a number of ways.

“A large portion of our funding goes to help code enforcement, which certainly helps all of the neighborhoods on an overall basis — making sure grass is being cut, trash is not being left around, and work is being done with permits so safety is being met,” she said.

Then there are the yard services for the elderly, handicapped and disabled, allowing them to stay in their homes while maintaining their properties in a less costly way. Currently, grass is cut 16 times throughout the season: eight weeks in a row at the start (the last week in April and the first week in May), and then eight more times on a biweekly basis. There are also between four and six opportunities for snow removal, as applicable. 

In regards to minor home repairs, a qualifying homeowner can apply for up to $1,000 in repairs, but it’s a one-shot deal — if one applies and spends only $350, they can’t reapply for the rest. It works in tandem with code enforcement, providing relief when a code enforcement violation would be an undue burden, financially.

“We do hot water heater repairs, and we’re currently doing several homes that have dead and diseased trees on their properties, which are safety violations, so we’ve been paying to assist them in having the trees removed,” Sanchez said. “These are all CDBG funds — there is no city general fund money involved.”

The next round of CDBG money is expected to be distributed this spring or summer.

To see if you qualify for yard services, call the Senior Citizen Center at (248) 545-3464 to request an application. For minor home repairs, call Community Development at (248) 583-0831.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.