A Trusted Tool

[HUD Photo]

HALFWAY - Think "HUD" and you may think "big bucks for big cities." Think again.

Start with HUD's Community Development Block Grant - or CDBG - program. It's been around more than 50 years and may be HUD's most popular programs, especially among city and county officials.

Why? CDBG funds, of course, come with statutory and regulatory strings attached. Most importantly, funds must be used on projects which principally benefit low- and moderate-income people, eliminate slums and blight or respond to natural disasters.

However, the list of eligible activities is a long one - from housing rehabilitation to downtown revitalization, street repairs to park improvements, sewer and water system upgrades to economic development loan funds. Best of all, the decisions on when, where and how to spend CDBG funds are made not by bureaucrats in Salem or Washington, D.C. but by elected city or county officials in consultation with communities' residents.

Yes, Oregon's largest cities and counties - Portland and Eugene, Salem and Corvallis, Clackamas County and Washington County - annually receive CDBG funding. They're among some 1,100 cities nationwide with more than 50,000 residents and counties with more than 200,000 residents that HUD calls "entitlement" communities. There are 16 counties and cities in Oregon that are "entitlements." As long as Congress appropriates CDBG funds they're entitled to a share.

But that doesn't leave smaller communities out of luck. Among those 1,100 entitlements, after all, are 50 state agencies that also are entitlements and are charged with making sure CDBG funds are available to smaller, usually rural cities and counties.

Oregon's program is administered by the state agency Business Oregon. In a typical year, HUD delivers some $35 million in CDBG funds to Oregon's entitlements. Over $13 million goes to Business Oregon to serve the housing and community development priorities of the state's smaller, more rural communities. More than a third of the CDBG dollars flowing into Oregon each year are going not to the biggest, but the smallest communities.

Whether big, small or somewhere in between, in other words, every incorporated community in the state can tap into the CDBG pipeline. Consider the 16 communities that, in early December, 2019, won CDBG fund from Business Oregon (www.oregon4biz.com/News-&-Media/index.php?a=223) "to build stable, growing economies," said assistant director Chris Cummings "and "set the stage for long-term rural community prosperity in Oregon."

Like the City of Monument, population 128, which was awarded almost $1.8 million to bring its water system up to standard or the City of North Powder, population 439, that won $276,000 to upgrade its wastewater treatment system. Or the City of Halfway, population 288, that received $1.5 million that will enable the Pine Valley Rural Fire Protection District replace its "outdated" current fire station or Coos County that was given $311,000 to build a new garage so the Dora-Sitkum Rural Fire Protection District can replace one that's too small to house its fire-fighting vehicles. Or the cities of La Grande and Roseburg that will use CDBG funds to launch microenterprise programs or six other rural communities - Klamath County and the cities of Sweet Home, Prineville, McMinnville - that will put $2.6 million in CDBG funds to work repairing and renovating more than 100 homes.

"In big cities or small towns, rural or urban" says HUD Oregon field office director Tony Ramirez, "public officials really like CDBG because it provides much-needed resources and tremendous flexibility to address the infrastructure needs they've identified as essential to maintaining sustainability of their communities. It's been improving communities and touching lives across America for more than 50 years. It may be along in years, but it continues to prove itself one of the most essential and effective tools in our toolbox."


Content Archived: February 1, 2021