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Community development grant administrators gear up for 2021 projects

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 by Seth Smalley

Travis County has received Community Development Block Grant funding since 2006 for the purpose of improving affordability, community facilities and revitalizing county neighborhoods. Last Tuesday, the Commissioners Court reviewed the CDBG funding annual action plan.

“This public hearing is to receive feedback from the public as well as the Commissioners Court to inform the planning and community development projects for the 2021 program year,” said Monique Coleman, planning manager for the county’s CDBG program. “Really it’s to receive comments from the public on the needs, as we do have upcoming activity for projects.”

CDBG funding in 2021 is expected to total $1,245,969.

“We need to work together to figure out how to begin to address those areas which see gentrification. When you think about the problems in those areas, that is a very small amount of money,” Commissioner Jeff Travillion acknowledged.

Coleman explained the basics of the project selection process, which started in August 2019 with a five-year plan that established preliminary funding priorities and potential projects.

From there, priorities will be modified or expanded based on the interests of the commissioners and feedback from the community. The list of potential projects will then be narrowed based on feasibility and housing and urban development objectives and regulations.

Finally, potential projects will be scored using a rubric that includes in its criteria meeting Travis County values, the estimated impact of the project, feasibility and adherence to the initial five-year plan. At least 70 percent of the CDBG funds are required to benefit low- to moderate-income county residents.

Projects might include a variety of community development activities, including planning, housing, public services and economic or community development.

“Since inception, the CDBG program has funded a wide variety of projects,” Coleman said. Most recently, those projects have included residential home repair, septic system repair and replacement and wastewater improvements.

Construction of buildings for government business, income payments or political activity of any kind are generally ineligible for CDBG funding.

According to Coleman, the program has been actively seeking public feedback via a series of public hearings and an online survey in English and Spanish. To date, the program has received 243 resident responses, four of which were completed in Spanish.

However, during the public feedback time following Coleman’s presentation, a sole speaker complained of a lack of public accountability by the program.

“I have participated in the CDBG process since moving here, but have yet to see any improvements,” said Tracey Caraway of Cardinal Hills. “We have no paved streets, drainage or city water or signage. I have personally almost been sideswiped a number of times. I attended public hearings for the first five years in the past with no results and kinda gave up, to be honest. With the low to moderate taxes everyone here is paying, I’d like to see at least some improvements done.”

Coleman and Commissioner Brigid Shea both resolved to follow up with the caller.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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