Vancouver City Council works on grant priorities

Increasing affordable housing, homeless services among goals

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Increasing and preserving affordable housing. Revitalizing low-income neighborhoods. Providing support services for people who are homeless and at risk of becoming homeless. Increasing economic opportunities.

Those were the four broad goals mentioned Monday during a Vancouver City Council workshop on how to best spend money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The workshop previewed the federal process the city must go through to be eligible for the grants.

The city has to go through the process every five years, and a new plan will be due in May, said Peggy Sheehan, the city's community and economic development programs manager.

Sheehan said the city receives less than $2 million annually from HUD's Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs.

The council in March will recommend projects for funding.

The HUD money represents just one piece in the puzzle of how nonprofit organizations work to reduce societal ills, and the city has encouraged local agencies to get better organized and reduce overlapping efforts.

Councilor Larry Smith serves on the Clark County Community Action Advisory Board, which works with Clark County Community Services to determine how to spend different pots of money on a range of services including drug and alcohol treatment and mental health.

In 2012, for example, the Community Action Advisory Board distributed $2.5 million from five sources to 17 agencies for 31 programs. A few of those were paid for by the city.

It's a struggle to decide who should get what money, Smith said, including determining whether to take the money and spread it out among as many agencies as possible or make a concentrated effort on one problem.

The city started accepting applications for CDBG and HOME grants on Oct. 10. For more information and to fill out an application, go to http://www.cityofvancouver.us. Under "Our Community," click on "Community Development Block Grants."