NEW BEDFORD — There’s almost $4 million in estimated grant money coming to the city, and the Office of Housing & Community Development is looking for ideas on how to spend it.
The OHCD held two virtual meetings recently laying out the ground rules for organizations or individuals who want to submit proposals on how to allocate the funds.
The deadline for request for proposals is Feb. 11 and applications can be found online at https://www.newbedford-ma.gov/housing-community-development.
The city is in the third year of its five-year Annual Action Plan to make improvements to the city's housing, public facilities, public infrastructure, parks and playgrounds, community services, homelessness resources, and economic development.
Jennifer Clarke, OHCD deputy director, said the improvements are funded through three different federal grants.
Community Development Block Grant
There is an anticipated $2.7 million in a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022, that can be used to benefit low-to-moderate income people, rehab buildings to make them handicap accessible, improve city parks, fix up business facades, or help seniors with home repair or accessibility needs.
Patrick Sullivan, OHCD director, said CDBGs were used last year to help over 13,000 residents, including 768 who received assistance through homeless services. He said the economic development portion of the grant created or retained 41 jobs last year and helped eight businesses improve facades.
He said the grant helped with exterior work to the YWCA’s residential services building and improved city parks and playgrounds.
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Emergency Solutions Grant
There is an anticipated $235,458 in the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) coming for FY22 that is used to address homelessness in the city.
Sullivan said the money can be used for street outreach, emergency shelters, preventing homelessness and rapid re-housing. He said the grant was used last year to help 507 people in emergency shelters, re-house 99 people, reach 103 in the streets, and keep 59 from becoming homeless. He noted that last year the city received an extra $416,485 in COVID relief funding in addition to the $170,741 in ESG money.
There is an anticipated $876,137 in HOME grants coming for FY22.
The HOME grant is used for new construction, rental housing and first-time buyer programs for low-to-moderate income people.
Sullivan said more recently the HOME grant is being used at the old Cliftex Mill building to help create 71 apartments for senior citizens.
Ideas for FY22 grants
Renee Ledbetter, of the New Bedford Shannon Program program for youths at risk, said there needs to be more youth shelters in the city “especially with the rise in homelessness of youths.”
Sullivan agreed that any proposals that would address how to create more shelters for youths would rank high because of the need.
Likewise Jack Livramento, New Bedford School Committee, said there needs to be a centralized location where homeless or those who are facing homelessness can go for services. He also voiced concerns about shelters being closed during the day forcing people to “hang out downtown, City Hall, the library or at the post office” and the go back to the shelters when they reopen at night.
Livramento said they need a place to go during the day and suggested an abandoned building could be rehabilitated to accomplish that.
Andrea Sheppard-Lomba, executive director of United Interfaith Action, said she would like to see more funds allocated for families who may not qualify for state assistance, but are dangerously close to being evicted from their homes.
Sullivan said those facing eviction “remains a major concern.” He pointed out that some COVID relief funds the city received last year were put toward that effort.
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Deadlines and next steps
RFPs must be received by the OHCD by Feb. 11. Anyone needing assistance in filling out an RFP is urged to contact the OHCD for help.
Once RFPs are reviewed, there will be a public comment on them from March 18 to April 20.
The OHCD will then present the City Council with a report to authorize the FY2022 Annual Action Plan.
The plan will then be submitted to the final approving authority, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) around April 25.
Standard-Times digital producer Linda Roy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter at @LindaRoy_SCT. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times.
This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: New Bedford seeks public opinion on spending $4 million in grants