The Most Effective Federal Grants for Mid-Sized Cities

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As 2017 comes to a close, city leaders are concerned about the future of critical grant programs. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration released the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget for fiscal year 2018, which proposed the sweeping elimination of flexible block grant programs, including Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships grants.

All together, the elimination of these programs would cause cities and states to lose out on $3.948 billion that they use to make effective changes to their communities.

The new story map, “CDBG and HOME: Essential Grants for Mid-Sized Cities” showcases how CDBG and HOME grants benefit mid-sized cities and their citizens. According to the National League of Cities’ 2017 Local Economic Conditions survey, mid-sized cities identified affordable housing, demand for survival services and skill alignment with employer needs as the top constraints negatively affecting their economic growth.

After looking broadly at 41 mid-sized cities and doing extensive research on six – including Roanoke, VA; Waco, TX; Independence, MO; Akron, OH; Little Rock, AR; and Boulder, CO – it is evident that cities are using CDBG and HOME dollars to directly address these needs. The broad overview in the story map showcases how much funding each city gets, and how they spend their CDBG dollars. The six case studies feature video interviews of elected officials to depict why CDBG and HOME grants are beneficial to their communities and interactive maps that illustrate where some projects have been completed in each city. Each city has unique needs, methods of utilizing their grant funding and success rates.

Caption: Mayor Eileen Weir of Independence, Missouri, explains how her city is using CDBG and HOME grants to meet the needs of her community.

Cities are effectively using CDBG and HOME dollars to address the negative constraints they stated in the survey, including:

Affordable Housing – In Waco, Texas, city leaders are using both CDBG and HOME grant funds to rehabilitate and reconstruct three owner-occupied housing units. They also are using HOME grant funds to help with the down-payment and closing cost for 15 renters purchasing homes for the first time.

Demand for Survival Services – The city of Little Rock and CHI St. Vincent established a partnership to provide a health clinic in east Little Rock for low and moderate-income individuals. The city uses CDBG funds to provide 3,500 families with access to health and dental services.

Skills alignment with employer needs –Independence uses CDBG money to provide residents with job training. In Independence, the city has partnered with Twelve Blocks West and the Community Services League to provide job training and job placement is guaranteed through Truman Medical Center.

Overall, CDBG and HOME grants are essential for the success of mid-sized cities. Without them, cities are forced to cut other essential services or programs that are necessities for citizens. For many years, cities have been using these funds to create more affordable housing options, provide access to survival services (shelters, food, etc), and help residents access skills training to improve the job market. In 2018, cities will continue to fight to keep CDBG and HOME grants as part of the federal budget.

Click to view the full story map:

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About the Author: Domenick Lasorsa is a graduate student intern for the Federal Advocacy and Center for City Solutions teams at the National League of Cities. He is finishing his master’s degree in public service at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. Follow him on twitter @DomLasorsa.