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Wednesday December 7th

Town of Chapel Hill receives feedback on Community Development Block Grant budget

The Lindsay Street Duplex is one of the first new units to be completed in Carrboro as a part of the Affordable Housing Development.
Buy Photos The Lindsay Street Duplex is one of the first new units to be completed in Carrboro as a part of the Affordable Housing Development.

The Town of Chapel Hill is open to public comment on its Community Development Block Grant Annual Plan’s performance for the 2021-22 fiscal year until Sept. 30.

The CDBG is directed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The department calls for its grant money to be invested in developing affordable housing and economic opportunities for individuals within low- and moderate-income brackets.

Submissions of public comments help provide a baseline for improvements in the CDBG’s budget allocations for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Megan Culp, affordable housing and community connections director for the Town of Chapel Hill, said the Town's the plan for the 2022-23 fiscal year can also be amended to reflect pressing community needs.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Tai Huynh said HUD’s grant program works under a multi-year consolidated plan with fixed goals. 

Currently, the CDBG is operating under the 2020-2025 Consolidated Plan, which focuses on priorities including housing for people experiencing homelessness and economic development.

“We have council goals that we set up for the last multiple years, and so those are pretty high-level to make Chapel Hill a vibrant place,” Huynh said.

The 2022-2023 CDBG plan has a 15 percent budget limit for public services, which include funding for the Town's Summer Youth Employment Program and the Inter-Faith Council's Homeless Case Management initiative.

Culp said last year’s CDBG allocations deviated due to the pandemic. She said that, after assessments of needs were conducted, the 15 percent budget limit for public services was expanded to provide for the community. 

The 2022-23 fiscal plan still has the 15 percent budget limit – a cap of $65,185.

During the expansion to public services during the 2020-21 fiscal year, Culp said services like the Refugee Community Partnership's neighborhood support program were added.

She said RCP's neighborhood support program aided in supporting refugee and immigrant families experiencing with language inaccessibility.

Meagan Clawar, co-executive director for RCP, said community members initiated the program, which helped address the needs of those experiencing heightened language inaccessibility.

“Having the funding from CDBG to be able to make that program a reality was really amazing to see,” she said. “It was a really great example of putting money behind community members’ priorities and their ideas.”

Culp also said the CDBG also supported pre-existing youth-based programs. 

The Town's Summer Youth Employment Program provides youth from families that earn 80 percent or less of Chapel Hill’s area median income with employment opportunities and workshops.

East Chapel Hill High student Andrea Wang, 16, said she participated in the program and worked as a summer camp counselor for the Town. She said she learned about interview etiquette, time management and resume writing.

“It was really impactful to be able to actually find a job even though I wasn’t 16 or older,” Wang said.

While Wang found the CDGB-funded youth program helpful, she said improvement for programs like the SYEP is needed, and emphasized that programs catered towards low to moderate-income people need more advertising to be accessible. 

The SYEP is still receiving funding this fiscal year through the grant. However, other programs like the RCP were cut for this upcoming year due to the reinstatement of the previous public services budget cap.

Clawar said this cut has forced the RCP to look into other budgeting opportunities like receiving funding from the American Rescue Plan Act through the Town.

“Not receiving those funds definitely limits some of our ability to achieve the goals that we have in the community,” she said. “Right now we're at a limited capacity, but we're hopeful the Town could choose to support us through (ARPA) funds." 

There are many communities the CDBG has the potential to uplift, but for this consolidated plan, Huynh said the Town is focusing funds on individuals with low AMIs, which usually impact people of color and refugee populations the hardest.

Wang said she hopes the Town Council’s encouragement for public commentary on the CDBG will foster more accessibility for low- and moderate-income individuals seeking affordable housing opportunities.

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@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 


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