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Rockford passes plan to use millions in federal grants for neighborhood revitalization and home repairs

Rockford passes plan to use millions in federal grants for neighborhood revitalization and home repairs

ROCKFORD (WREX) — Millions of federal dollars are coming to Rockford in the form of grants. The city gets this grant money every year to revitalize the city and help low-income residents.

This year, it got $3.3 million, which is about $300,000 more than it got last year. But the money can only be spent on specific things because of federal regulations.

“We do get these grants and the city will look at what portions of this can be used for different means, but we really need to use it in a prudent manner and the way in which it’s supposed to be used,” Third Ward Ald. Chad Tuneberg says.

This year, the plan targets specific areas for funding. It includes housing, community development, economic development, homelessness, and planning.

But how is that money getting split up?

A portion of it will go towards reducing blight, a major goal of the city for the last few years.

Nearly $500,000 will go toward clearing 45 properties spread out across the city, but a targeted area will be the Orchid neighborhood on Rockford’s southeast side. It’s all part of the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy.

Reducing the number of dilapidated or abandoned properties has always been a goal for the city. According to a study from the Region One Planning Council, last year, Rockford made up for between 80 to 85 percent of blighted properties in all of Winnebago County.

Fifth Ward Ald. Venita Hervey says the city has been doing a great job reducing blight thus far, and this plan will continue that, but there’s still work to do.

“Let’s keep that moving, but blight reduction isn’t developmental,” Hervey explains. “It’s maintenance — cutting out the infection, if you will. It’s making it better, but it’s not improving the things that truly make a neighborhood.”

And that’s why Ald. Hervey says the place to start for community development is with affordable housing and housing repairs. Coincidentally, that’s where a bulk of the grant money is going.

More than $1.5 million will go towards creating more affordable housing units by bringing current properties up to code and helping renters move in. One of the grants will allow low-income residents to apply for housing repairs, if they meet the qualifications for income and code regulations.

“Individuals do have to meet certain requirements — they also have to be up to code in other areas of their property,” Tuneberg explains. “There are specifications to meet, so not just everyone can come and take advantage of this.”

During Monday night’s meeting, city officials say they expect significant demand, but Hervey explains how someone in need could stack loans.

“Let’s use roofing and other housing rehab, you could stack those two together, so the person might be able to get a total of a $50,000 forgivable loan,” Hervey says.

In the past, those loans have capped between $25,000 and $30,000.

You can apply for these programs on the city’s website under housing rehabilitation programs.

Another big area where money will go is homelessness prevention.

Four separate programs will receive around $170,000. Money will go to emergency shelters and transitional housing, support services, and prevention and rapid re-housing.

Aldermen we spoke to say, while it’s good we’re investing money in homelessness, it’s “astounding” to them the amount of money we need to spend on homelessness each year. Other say they don’t think it’s enough money and we should be spending more.

Aside from the grant money, also at city council on Monday night, a hookah ordinance was brought up for the first time. Several aldermen say they city has been approached about putting in hookah lounges in different areas of Rockford.

Right now, they say Rockford doesn’t have any hookah lounges, so this would be the first step in bringing one to the city.

Next week, it will be addressed in a city council committee and then aldermen will decide if it will go forward or not.

Published at Tue, 02 Feb 2021 05:08:08 +0000

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Written by Riel Roussopoulos

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