The city of Brookhaven has created a public input plan to decide how to use a federal grant that aims to help “economically distressed” areas of the city.

The city expects to receive about $375,000 annually for the next five years through the Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money will be spent on projects to help underserved communities in the city, which will be decided on during the public input process.

“Economically distressed areas” are U.S. Census blocks in which a majority of the residents are considered to have low to moderate incomes. Patty Hansen, the city’s director of strategic partnerships, said the Census blocks in the city that qualify are mostly concentrated around the Buford Highway corridor.

HUD requires cities to create a Citizen Participation Plan to decide where the funds will go. That participation plan will be presented at the Sept. 22 City Council meeting and is available here for review. Residents will have the opportunity to comment on the plan before the council vote.

The participation plan includes a public hearing before the city drafts a five-year plan and an annual plan for how to distribute the federal grant. Those draft plans will be posted for a 30-day public comment period before the final plans for the funds are adopted by the City Council.

Any amendments to the five-year or annual plan must also have a public hearing and a 30-day public comment period before it is adopted by the council, according to the city’s Citizen Participation Plan. Annual reports on the funded projects will have public hearing opportunities and a 15-day public comment period.

“The local government does not dictate where the funds go,” Hansen said. “They make informed decisions with the community.”

HUD allows a range of projects that fall into the categories of “revitalizing neighborhoods, economic development and providing improved community facilities and services,” according to its website.

“Grantees must give maximum feasible priority to activities which benefit low- and moderate-income persons,” the HUD website states.

Hansen said the funds in the city could go toward studying trends of affordable housing; creating better infrastructure in economically distressed areas; building parks and public facilities; renovating buildings for Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility; or other projects that would encourage affordable housing.

Sandy Springs has used HUD funds for sidewalk improvements on Roswell Road, which were intended to help lower-income residents living in apartments walk to nearby locations.

The funds do not have to be used in specific Census blocks.

“It would be detrimental to inadvertently support creating ‘islands’ of affordability by focusing potential projects in [low- to moderate-income Census] blocks, and so the program is required to, and should, consider the community as a whole,” Hansen said.

Hansen said the $375,000 is an annual planning estimate, but the city will not know exactly how much it will get until Congress appropriates the funds for the program after Oct. 1.

The funding is allocated based on a formula that primarily evaluates the amount of seniors and their income levels and the number of households living at or below a designated income level, Hansen said.

The city previously received HUD funds through DeKalb County because its population was under 50,000 people. That agreement was in place for six years, and the city received $100,000 over the course of those years, Hansen said.

Hansen said that money paid for a portion of the Lynwood Park Recreation Center bathroom renovation to bring it up to the ADA standards. That project was not in a low- to moderate-income level Census block, but it qualified because the center serves people with lower incomes and the project helped seniors because of the ADA changes.

“Because we’re a larger city now, we can move more expediently and micro-target city areas and outreach to our own citizens and businesses,” Hansen said.

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