Hammond makes changes amid HUD funding cutbacks

2012-11-10T21:30:00Z 2012-11-11T20:43:06Z Hammond makes changes amid HUD funding cutbacksChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | A decrease in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is causing Hammond to end or evaluate some programs backed by those dollars.

The city has decided to discontinue at least two programs next year.

The adopt-a-lot program, which dealt with the maintenance of vacant lots, and the curb appeal program, which allowed low-income residents to apply for funds for minor house repairs, will no longer receive new funding.

“Every year we have to look at every program and determine what efficiencies we can make with that program and try to still offer services to the community," said Phil Taillon, executive director of the city's Department of Planning and Development. "But at the same time, there are some instances where you have to get rid of a program altogether.”

Taillon said while no new funds will go into those programs, the city will use up the remaining funds.

The decision to end programs comes as funding Hammond receives from HUD has decreased, Taillon said.

Community development funding is down 37 percent from 2001, Taillon said. Funding to create and rehabilitate affordable housing fell by half during the same time period.

Amid the cutback, the city also has chosen to start new programs.

A youth sports recreation program began last year that provides low-income youth scholarships to participate in sports programs. Next year the program is set to receive $80,000 in additional funding.

Another new program focuses on job creation and business expansion.

The city also is using HUD dollars to demolish dilapidated commercial properties, such as the former Queen Anne Candy Factory, and pay for upgrades at Harrison Park.

More programming changes may be on the horizon.

Cuts in the dollars Hammond receives through HUD's HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which focuses on affordable housing opportunities, may force the department to take a serious look at its home rehab program by 2014.

The city is anticipating receiving a $354,314 allocation in HOME dollars in 2013, down from $590,590 in 2011.

The program, which is backed by HOME dollars, allows residents to take out no-interest loans to fund home repairs. On average, the program serves 10 to 15 people a year but has a yearlong waiting list.

“Now you are down to $300,000,” Taillon said. “That's not even going to put a nick into the housing problem we have in the city, so we have to take a serious look at that to see if there's a better way to spend those funds.”

The city also may review in 2014 the program that helps low-income homeowners buy paint to freshen up exterior of their homes.

“It has been a positive program for the city, but again, as HUD keeps making cuts on us we have to make cuts — it's just a fact,” Taillon said.

Outside agencies that are granted HUD funding through the city also have experienced changes in funding.

Parents As Teachers of Lake County Inc. will not receive the $20,000 it requested for next year, but Taillon said he hopes Hammond will be able to fund the organization in 2014.

While Greater Hammond Community Services likely will receive the $40,000 it requested for its food pantry, HUD funding is a point of worry for the organization.

“We never take anything for granted that we'll get it every year. The city always has been very helpful to us,” said Tim Cottingham, the agency's executive director. “They can't give what they don't get. You just never know what the feds are going to do.”

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