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News / Clark County News

Vancouver finalizes plan to allocate $3.5 million in housing funds

Money comes from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

By Carlos Fuentes, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 14, 2023, 6:05am

The city of Vancouver has finalized its plan for using nearly $3.5 million in grants to support low-income residents and boost housing programs.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the form of three grants: Community Development Block Grants, HOME Investment Partnerships Programs and additional HOME funds from the American Rescue Plan.

The Vancouver City Council approved its action plan for the funds on Monday, allocating $3.49 million toward 21 community organizations with projects to support low-income groups and increase access to affordable housing.

“The work we’re doing is much needed and ongoing, and the support that’s being provided from the city as well as the county is growing and is allowing us to serve more kids,” said Francisco Bueno, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington, which received $50,000 from the plan.

The plan includes $435,900 for housing services and rental assistance, $485,000 for economic development, $966,338 for housing projects, and $500,000 for public services and public facilities.

According to the city, these funds will benefit 4,380 people, including 203 business owners. The funds will help 46 households access rental assistance, help 1,500 people with improved mental health services for children, and help 1,890 people resolve or prevent homelessness.

“Addressing the continuing need for affordable housing and the prevention of homelessness is first and foremost about the value that every individual deserves a safe place to sleep and a place to call their own where they can keep their possessions,” Samantha Whitley, the city’s housing program manager, said in an email. “All of our HUD funding must be used to serve people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or earning low to moderate income.”

Vancouver usually applies for and receives Community Development Block Grants and HOME Investment Partnerships Programs grants annually. This year, the federal department is giving Vancouver $1.39 million in Community Development Block Grant funding and $791,895 in HOME funding.

The Community Development Block Grant funding will mainly go toward public services, public facilities and economic development, such as technical assistance for small businesses. The HOME funds will primarily go toward rental assistance and housing projects through organizations such as Proud Ground, which guides first-time homebuyers through the application process to help them find affordable housing.

“We’ve been really fortunate to be able to serve the city of Vancouver over the years, and I just want to thank you for the past support and reconsideration of continuing to fund our program,” Katie Ullrich, homeownership program director at Proud Ground, said at the city council meeting. “It makes such a difference in a family’s life. I’ve been here 18 years, and I’ve had the joy of seeing many homebuyers’ lives changed forever through homeownership.”

American Rescue Plan boost

In addition to the yearly funds, the HOME-American Rescue Plan funds — a 2021 COVID recovery program — will give the city $2.49 million over six years, including $727,904 this year.

The American Rescue Plan funds have been available since late 2021, but the city waited to include the request until this year in order to conduct thorough community outreach, according to Whitley.

“Our application process every year for our regular (Community Development Block Grant) and HOME funds starts in October and then is awarded in March,” she said after the city released its plan in February. “So by the time we got these surveys (in 2021) out, we were already in the middle of that process, and we decided to push it forward to the next award funding process. And that is why it has taken a long time.”

The American Rescue Plan funds will go toward housing services and outreach, which mostly involves working with those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The funds still need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The plan also includes $459,588 in unspent funds from previous Community Development Block Grants and HOME grants that will carry over. The funds will be distributed from July 1 until June 30 next year.

A committee composed of seven community representatives and eight city staff reviewed the applications and presentations, then scored and ranked the proposals received. Some of the community organizations that will receive funds include Lifeline Connections, Evergreen Habitat for Humanity, Council for the Homeless and Community Mediation Services.

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Columbian staff writer