The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Archive for the ‘CDBG’ Category

City and state celebrate funding that will help put people into 177 new residences by year’s end

In CDBG, City Hall on July 9, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Sometimes a city needs a dog-and-pony show.

At least the case could be made for the one — for the news conference — on Thursday in which state and local officials met in a new housing development in northwest Cedar Rapids to celebrate a significant infusion of federal dollars designed to help build 177 owner-occupied residences here by the end of the year.
Of the 177, 94 will be single-family homes and 83 will be condominiums.

In total, the Iowa Department of Economic Development and the Rebuild Iowa Office are steering about $7.5 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds into Cedar Rapids for the new construction. Statewide including in Cedar Rapids, a total of $17 million is being spent on the program, which will result in a total of 343 new owner-occupied residences, Mike Tramontina, director of the state economic development agency, noted at Thursday’s news conference.

Lt. Gen. Ron Dardis, who heads up the Rebuild Iowa Office, said the homebuilding is part disaster recovery and part economic stimulus that will fill a need for affordable housing in Cedar Rapids that existed before the June 2008 flood and exists even more now.

Those purchasing the 177 new residents can qualify to receive up to 30 percent of the cost of the home or condominium as down payment assistance on new homes worth $180,000 or less. The new owners must have a household income at or below the average median household income and they must be able to support a mortgage on the new residence.

Dardis said the program’s down payment assistance will open up some of the homes to those who lost residences in the flood, and as a result, will allow some flood victims to regain “a sense of neighborhood.” It’s hard to measure the extra value of that, Dardis said.

Thursday’s news conference on Moose Drive NW in the Wilderness Estates Edition took place almost directly in front of the basement of Rick Davis’ new house.

Davis, an active member of the Northwest Neighbors, lost his house in the Time Check Neighborhood, and he said he Thursday he would not be preparing to move into a new house on the edge of town except for the down payment assistance in the program that was being celebrated on Thursday.

A lover of the Time Check Neighborhood, Davis said he did not want to live there now because he didn’t trust the river.

“I’m out in the country now,” he joked. “I’ve got corn instead of the river.”

Ben Busch spoke at the news conference and said the program was allowing him, wife Jenna and their two young children to move out of apartments and into not just their first house, but a new house.

City Manager Jim Prosser noted that 20 local builders are involved in building the 177 new residences that are part of the down payment assistance program. He called the funding program a “signature” one and he said it has been well-designed to provide needed housing in an efficient way.

Prosser pointed to a January 2009 survey of the city’s flood-recovery housing needs, and he said the 177 new residences plus another 20 new homes being build in the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood have put the city well on the way to meeting a goal of seeing 300 or so owner-occupied residences built as part of the city’s flood recovery.

Local home builders already have been inquiring about the prospects of a second round of funding for the program, and the state’s Tramontina did not rule out such a prospect. He said it would depend on money and actual housing demand in Cedar Rapids.

Kyle Skogman, president of Skogman Homes, left Tramontina with an idea. Skogman said the state of Iowa should consider similar housing incentives in the years ahead as the city buys out and demolishes flood-damaged houses and has lots, in some instances, on which new homes can be built.


City Hall confident on buyout money; but when it arrives, the legal hurdles will take a few to many months to jump, city reminds people

In CDBG, FEMA, local-option sales tax on July 1, 2009 at 11:01 am

News elsewhere in Iowa of small-sized buyouts of flood-damaged homes does not mean that the first round of buyouts in Cedar Rapids using funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is not on track, Jennifer Pratt, the city’s development coordinator says.

Pratt on Wednesday said the city still expects to hear in August from FEMA on funds to buy out 167 properties closest to the Cedar River to make way for a riverside “greenway.”

The city intends to buy out ten times as many properties as the 167 in the greenway — 554 in a construction area needed to build a flood-protection system; and about 600 considered “beyond reasonable repair” that sit outside the greenway and construction area. The city will use federal Community Development Block Grant funds and revenue from the city’s local-option sales tax for those purchases. And every expectation is that there will be sufficient money to do the job, the city has said and Pratt repeated on Wednesday.

“It’s been so nerve-wracking getting to this point,” she said. “We just hope everything works out smoothly.”

Having said that, Pratt made clear a central point that she said those awaiting buyouts have been told and need to remember: No buyout check is going to show up in the mail quickly in any event.

Pratt said every buyout amounts to a “legal land transaction,” which can be slowed down by title problems and other legal issues.

In the best circumstances, she said it will take 60 to 90 days to get any property’s legal documentation in place before the buyout actually takes place once money arrives.

In worst cases, the entire process could take nine months, she said.

Included in the paperwork transaction is the need for each purchase to appear in front of the City Council on two separate occasions, Pratt said.