CS Community Development Holds Public Hearing for Use of $3.7 Million in Grants

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) – The City of College Station held a public hearing Tuesday night that can be used to improve accessible and affordable housing.

Each year, the city creates an action plan to spend grants that improve housing prospects for vulnerable populations. The city has already had several consultations with service providers to identify service gaps and community needs, but public input is also needed for the plan to be approved.

“The main needs that have been identified in College Station are affordable housing, lack of transportation and child care,” said Raney Whitwell, community development analyst at College Station. “There is a wide variety of things we can do with these funds. They can go towards housing, social services, economic development, etc.

The city discussed three grants totaling about $3.7 million Tuesday night. The HOME Investment Partnerships Program grant is one the city receives $500,000 each year. Whitwell says the grant is for anything that will produce housing for residents. The HOME-ARP grant is aimed at people who are homeless and at risk of becoming homeless. It’s a new one that came out of the US bailout. College Station is expected to receive just over $1.7 million in funding from this particular grant.

The third is the Community Development Block Grant, and Whitwell says the city typically receives about $1.5 million from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We currently use them for down payment assistance, so we can help qualifying families with up to $50,000 for down payment assistance for a home in College Station,” Whitwell said. “We also help local Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDOs) like Elder-Aid. We also help with security deposit assistance.

James Thomas is chairman of the board of Elder-Aid, a group that renovates duplexes to help seniors find affordable housing. He thinks helping low-income seniors is a good fit for the city.

“We usually have a few dozen people waiting to get homes, so we can’t renovate them and put them on the market fast enough to meet the need,” Thomas said. “As we all know, housing in College Station is quite expensive which puts a lot of seniors out of the market. We are trying to acquire some of the HOME funds.

Tre Watson is a fourth-generation College Station resident who says he feels like you have to move to Bryan or Houston to find affordable housing. He hopes some of the grants will be used to rebuild low-income areas.

“We have so much land here where they’re building nice apartments or nice houses,” Watson said. “I think it would be good to focus on low-income housing or a more affordable housing area that we can put in place for more people to move into.”

The city will continue to hold meetings on the plan development process over the next four months. Staff are expected to present it to council on July 28.

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Norma P. Rex