The Columbus Community Development Department is preparing to spend nearly $240,000 in federal funds to improve the city’s affordable housing options.

Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development, presented a plan to the Columbus Board of Works detailing how the department plans to spend $238,456 in Community Development Block Grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city applies for the grant funds each year and received $236,000 for the 2016 calendar year, which will run Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2017, Ferdon said.

However, the city is not required to spend all of its grant money in that calendar year, which is allowing the community development department to apply about $2,400 in leftover funds from the 2014 grant to this year’s project, Robin Hilber, community development programs coordinator, told Board of Works members.

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The biggest share of the 2016 funds will go toward the community development department, which will split a total of $93,965 between two city initiatives.

About $50,000 will go toward public facilities and improvements, such as sidewalk improvements, Hilber said.

Community Development block grants have been used in the past to help affordable housing complexes in the city apply for state tax credits, and the complexes are more likely to get those credits if the state sees that the city is invested in improving infrastructure like sidewalks, Ferdon said.

The second part of community development’s share of the grant funds will be $43,965 toward the rehabilitation of single-family, owner-occupied housing.

The city is currently in the process of applying for another set of funds, the Homeowner Repair and Improvement Program Grant, that addresses the same issue, Hilber said.

Through the homeowner grant, also known as an aging in place grant, the community development office can apply for up to $350,000 to be put toward home improvements for elderly or disabled residents who are living at or below 80 percent of the city’s median income. Those funds could be used for improvements such as the installation of ramps or the widening of doors to accommodate wheelchairs.

The city already has distributed around 40 applications for the aging in place grant and has received 12 or 13 completed applications back, which means it can likely apply for the full $350,000, Hilber said. That money could help 15 to 17 residents, but any other residents who are not served through the aging in place grant still could be served through the Community Development block grant, she said.

The Columbus Housing Authority will receive the second largest share of the grant money, with $77,291 designated for rehabilitation of and improvements to the Sycamore Place and Pence Place apartments.

Both apartment complexes are included on the city’s architectural tour, said Deborah Holt, Columbus Housing Authority executive director.

The 24-unit Sycamore Place complex needs new flooring in its hallways and main lobby, Holt said. Additionally, the iron railings on the balconies of each unit are beginning to rust, so they will be replaced with aluminum railings, she said.

At Pence Place Apartments, which has 40 units, the wooden fencing that is falling into disrepair will be replaced with composite fencing that is more durable and can withstand the wear and tear caused by the children who live in the complex, Holt said.

About $47,200 will be used for administrative and fair housing costs. The local Administrative Resources Association helped community development with the administrative portions of the grant and administers the grant for the city, Hilber said.

Finally, Centerstone will receive $20,000 to put toward the Columbus Homeless Outreach Program, or CHOP, which is designed to help local homeless residents struggling with mental illness and addiction find a permanent place to live while also getting treatment.

The grant funds are not meant to sustain housing improvement projects for the long-term but rather to get those programs started, Ferdon said.

Board of Works members unanimously accepted the community development department’s funding plan, which can now be sent to HUD for final approval. The plan must be submitted to HUD by July 15.

Funding breakdown

If approved by HUD, the community development department will use its Community Development Block Grant funds for:

  • Administration, planning: $47,200 to Administrative Resources Association for program planning, general administration, fair housing
  • Columbus Housing Authority: $77,291 for rehabilitation/renovations to Sycamore Place, Pence Place apartments
  • Community development: $43,965 for rehabilitation of single-family, owner-occupied housing
  • Centerstone: $20,000 for the Columbus Homeless Outreach Program (CHOP)
  • Community Development: $50,000 for public facilities and improvements
  • Total: $238,456
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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5712.