Block grants are one way governments work to assist low-income people with the repair of deteriorating homes. Spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), these grants are provided by the federal government but are allocated by counties and states for entire neighborhoods and communities.
Home Opportunities Made Equal
The Home Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) program allocates funds each year to over 500 participating jurisdictions throughout the U.S. All states are eligible for this HUD program, and the participating jurisdictions that receive HOME funds are allowed some flexibility in designating and managing the money. The funds available in this program come in the form of block grants which are designed to benefit entire neighborhoods or housing projects rather than individual families.
Community Development Grant Program
Also administered by HUD, the Community Development Grant Program (CDGP) can be quite flexible and allows entire communities to address a wide range of development needs. The CDGP provides grants every year to 1,209 state and local governments for a variety of purposes including the provision of decent housing in safe environments mostly in low-income areas. This program also provides financial assistance to low-income communities recovering from presidentially declared natural disasters and unstable neighborhoods hardest hit by foreclosures. Additionally, the CDGP works to create jobs and retain businesses in low-income areas.
Most government block grants are awarded to communities based on a specific formula. The criteria established by the formula measures the level of need of a community, measures the extent of poverty, considers the population and takes into account the age and how overcrowded the housing situation is in a given community. Metropolitan cities with populations of 50,000 or more and urban counties with populations of 200,000 or more are often eligible to receive funds for their most debilitated communities.
Goals of Block Grants
Nationwide, the purpose of these government block grants is to improve the most run-down neighborhoods in a community. Specific goals are to benefit low-income individuals and families by preventing or eliminating the development of slums or blighted areas. Other goals include assisting communities lacking in economic opportunities to the extent that conditions in the communities are beginning to pose a threat to the health and welfare of the residents. Typically, there is no other funding available for such communities to obtain financial assistance in making improvements without the government block grants.
An important part of the block grant process is citizen participation as these grant programs tend to have lasting success if residents of the community support them. Community meetings are held in which residents have an opportunity to review proposed improvement projects, ask questions and offer feedback. Another integral part of these programs is finding ways for non-English speaking residents to have opportunities to communicate their needs and understand the process.
Low-income families and individuals tend to find housing together in particularly inexpensive areas. The challenges they face in affording the upkeep on housing and property often results in the deterioration of entire neighborhoods and communities. Government block grants were designed to address these kinds of community challenges.