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Affordable-housing program to emphasize rent assistance

URBANA — A local program to promote affordable housing for low-income households will have greater emphasis on rental assistance for the coming year.

John Schneider, community development grants manager for Urbana, said many comments during a series of hearings and Urbana neighborhood meetings reflected a need for help with rent costs.

“We found there was an increasing need for tenant-based rental assistance,” Schneider said.

Factors causing a gap between rent costs and the ability of people to pay include the recession and a housing market skewed with higher rents due to the university, Schneider said. Other factors include families with too much debt and a tightening credit market. 

“The burst of the housing bubble” also is a factor, he said.

Urbana is the lead agency in the HOME consortium, an investment partnership in cooperation with the city of Champaign and Champaign County to meet community needs for low-income housing.

Increasing the supply of affordable housing is the top goal based on community comments.

Many of the housing and community development goals and strategies are the same as last year’s plan, but tenant-based rental assistance now tops the list of strategies to meet the goal of affordable housing for low-income families.

According to the annual action plan for 2010-11, the federal funding for the community development block grants in Urbana will be $505,007 — up $37,773.

This includes:
   — $80,000 for grants to make repairs to keep homes affordable and eliminate lead hazards.

— $20,000 for minor repairs to homes of Urbana seniors.

— $54,904 for nonprofit housing developers to build affordable housing or city-sponsored rehabilitation and resale of homes to qualified buyers.

— $31,846 for repairs and improvements at A Woman’s Fund on East Main Street in Urbana.

— $15,411 for kitchen and bathroom improvements at a group home on Heartle Street in Urbana. 

— $20,404 for new windows and doors of apartments run by the Mental Health Center of Champaign County on Elm Street in Urbana. 

— $13,318 for repairs of foundation and roof of a Mental Health Center group home on Lincolnshire Drive in Champaign.

— $30,322 toward streetlight reconstruction in the King Park neighborhood in Urbana.

— And $79,201 in public service funding, including transitional housing, consolidated social services and neighborhood cleanup.

Schneider said that under federal grant rules, social services are capped at 15 percent of community development block grants.

Funding to Urbana through the HOME Consortium will be $1,130,755 — up $2,696.

This includes $56,538 for operations of the Homestead Corp. and Ecological Construction Laboratory projects.

By Steve Bauer/ The News-Gazette

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