County Disencumbering $387, 811.00 in CDBG funds

By Mario Conde

The County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing this past Tuesday for the closeout and acceptance of activities completed under a CDBG Grant.

Esperanza Colio, Imperial County Community and Economic Development Manager presented the Board of Supervisors a report about CDBG funding given to the County to provide housing rehabilitation to low income households in the townsites of Seeley and Niland. In 2007, the County entered into an agreement with the California Department of Housing and Community Development in the amount of $500,000 with a local match of $50,000.

The County began promoting the program to families in Seeley and Niland. A number of families were identified for housing rehabilitation projects, however, due to the mortgage foreclosure crisis and the increasing unemployment rate in the Imperial County, all these families opted not to continue with their housing rehabilitation projects.

“Most of these families felt that incurring any type of loan would not be a wise decision due to the current economic crisis.” Colio said.

In 2009, the department submitted a request for a grant extension because the grant was set to expire. The extension was not approved until December 2009, which placed a hold on any activities for this program. This delay, Colio said, caused the potential applicants to lose interest on this program.

Also in response to the 7.2 earthquake last year, the County applied for and was subsequently awarded $1.5 million in funding through the emergency assistance CalHome program. Since CalHome was a more advantageous program due to the fact that it was a 10 year deferred forgivable loan, eligible families opted for this program instead of the CDBG housing rehabilitation amortized loan program. A total of four families supplemented the costs of reconstruction of their homes with funds from CalHOME thus reducing the number of funds expended with the CDBG grant.

Over the course of the grant, department staff worked with a total of 14 families, and provided 3 housing rehabilitation loans. Additionally, department staff worked continuously with HCD representatives on possible alternatives to make the program more appealing to clients. Unfortunately, due to the unstable housing market the majority of the clients decided not continue with their projects. Therefore, the County was unable to expend all funds and will be disencumbering $387, 811.00 in CDBG funds.