Action Plan invests $3.4MM in housing, neighborhoods

COVINGTON, Ky. - A $3.4 million plan to invest in Covington’s low- and moderate-income areas includes almost $1.4 million in programs set up to help people buy homes and to create, repair, and maintain affordable housing.
The Covington City Commission tonight will hear a presentation on the proposed budget for the CDBG/HOME Annual Action Plan for program year 2019-20. The Commission will also hear about proposed guidelines for three of the Action Plan’s housing programs, including the expanded boundary for its Upper Floor Residential Rehab Program that was instituted last year.
A vote on both measures could come next Tuesday.
“The ‘Action Plan’ invests money directly in Covington’s neighborhoods in strategic ways that make people’s lives better,” said Jeremy Wallace, the City’s Federal Grants Manager. “Among many other things, it helps first-time homebuyers, it funds emergency home repairs, it improves neighborhood parks, it increases safety, and it fixes up streets and sidewalks.”
Affordable housing is a top priority. The plan allocates: 
  • $300,000 for about 60 forgivable loans that help homebuyers pay closing costs and make down payments. In the last 10 years, the Homebuyer Assistance Program has helped over 520 Covington families buy a home. The program assists households with annual incomes at or below $43,900 for a one-person household to $62,650 for a four-person household to $82,700 for an eight-person household. 
  • $400,000 to help owners of buildings with first-floor commercial storefronts turn their upper floors into affordable apartments. This consists of $200,000 for new projects and $200,000 for projects that are underway. Developers can receive forgivable loans of up to $20,000 per unit. Once limited to certain areas, eligibility was expanded citywide last year. 
  • About $485,000 to help non-profit organizations that partner with the City rehab dilapidated homes to create affordable single-family housing. Among the 10 housing units are those on Leslie Avenue, Greenup Street, and Glenway Avenue. 
  • $198,000 for emergency repairs to help low-income homeowners - especially elderly, disabled, and veteran households - fix things like furnaces, roofs, and sewer laterals when those problems pose threats to health and safety. This will help approximately 32 homeowners. 
The plan also makes considerable investments in streets and streetscape infrastructure, park improvements, crime prevention, and recreation programs - all in low- and moderate-income areas. Among these investments: 
  • $138,000 in street resurfacing.
  • $200,000 for a second round of The Ripple Effect, a targeted economic development and infrastructure improvement project in a neighborhood business district.
  • About $345,000 for a Scott Street streetscape project.
  • $25,000 for sidewalk and fence improvements along Highway Avenue.
  • $100,000 for crime prevention and community policing in City Heights and other communities.
  • $35,000 for targeted code enforcement in problem areas to ensure safe and sanitary neighborhoods.
  • $95,000 for the Read Ready Covington early childhood literacy program. 
Where possible, the 2019-20 plan seeks to group investments in targeted geographic areas to make improvements more visible and lasting. “We want to maximize benefits to neighborhoods,” Wallace said.
Money comes from two federal sources - the HOME Investments Partnerships Program and the Community Development Block Grant program.
To expend its HOME funds, Covington is part of a consortium of cities that includes Newport, Dayton, Bellevue, and Ludlow. The Northern Kentucky HOME Consortium directs spending in those four cities through a separate budget of about $575,000.
To figure out where to spend its CDBG and HOME funds, Covington collected input from residents, businesses, and other stakeholders in several ways, including a community needs survey, a public hearing, and a public comment period.
“This plan responds to the suggestions we heard,” Wallace said.
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