'Basic necessity': RGV to get more than $21.2 million in HUD grants

Mar. 17—More than $21.2 million in federal funding is headed to South Texas in the form of annual formula grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Community Planning and Development.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-34) announced the news on Friday, explaining that the money will be funneled through three programs aimed at different aspects of getting more people into decent housing. Those programs are Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG).

"Housing is a basic necessity, and everyone should be afforded the opportunity to live in a safe, reliable home," Gonzalez said. "Funding opportunities like these allows our cities and counties to collaborate with community organizations to address and supply basic needs for families across South Texas."

A portion of the funding (through ESG) will go to help people who have become homeless but are looking for jobs and trying to get back on their feet, he said.

"We're working on different projects in the district to try to get more CDBG grants directed to the different towns and mayors, who I think are in the best position to figure out what they need," Gonzalez said. "I've been really focused on the CDBG grants."

HUD says its CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities and counties to "develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons."

"We have members of Congress trying to abolish them, but I think it's really good funding that goes down to the root of places where people can actually make decisions at the local level of where to spend their money," Gonzalez said.

The HOME grant program is dedicated exclusively to providing block grants to state and local governments to create affordable housing for low-income households, while ESG grants may be used for street outreach, emergency shelter, homelessness prevention, rapid-rehousing assistance and/or to maintain a Homeless Management Information System, which keeps track of housing and services provided to homeless individuals and families and people at risk of becoming homeless.

Brownsville will receive more than $3.8 million, nearly $2.6 million of it in CDBG grants, more than $1 million in HOME funding, and $228,451 in ESG money.

Harlingen will receive more than $1.2 million ($834,463 CDBG, $366,472 HOME), while San Benito has been allocated $333,510 in CDBG funding.

McAllen is set to receive more than $2.5 million (more than $1.74 million CDBG, $631,001 HOME, $146,947 ESG), and Edinburg is receiving more than $1 million in CDBG money. Pharr will get more than $1.1 million in CDBG funding.

The formula HUD uses to award the annual grants is based partly on an area's population and the economic circumstances of residents in it, though Gonzalez said he talks to members of the House housing and appropriations subcommittees to "try to beef up what we're getting for our area."

"I think we need more than other places and I try to distinguish that," he said. "This isn't Dallas or Austin or Houston. This is South Texas on the border. We're still one of the poorest regions in the country, and we need more help."