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City housing funds topic of public forums
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The City of Turlock is reaching out to residents for input on how housing funds are dispersed, including low-income loans and rehabilitation projects.

A draft for the City of Turlock and Turlock/Stanislaus County HOME Consortium Action Plan for 2013-2014 was released to the public last week for consideration and comment before it is enacted. The draft describes eligible programs, future projects and their functions for addressing housing, homelessness and economic development.

According to Community Housing Services Manager Maryn Pitt, last year’s efforts to  reduce homelessness proved to be successful. The city tackled nearly every goal identified in the 2012-2013 Consolidated Plan, and now offers first-time home buyers assistance programs and funding for public services and fair housing.

Ten rehabilitation projects have also been provided for low-income households, and eight additional homes were purchased using Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds. Despite the city’s strides in keeping low-income families housed Pitt feels there is “never enough money.”

“We had 14 applications for public services and it would have been great to fund everybody. They give us a presentation before a community panel, and it is one of those times where you wish you had enough money to give to everyone. Unfortunately, that is just not happening,” said Pitt.

The estimated allocation for the Community Development Block Grant funds for 2013-2014 is $507,554, estimating a 5 percent increase in CDBG funding from last year. As for the Turlock/Stanislaus County HOME Consortium, there has been an allocation estimating roughly $854,000 in HOME funds, a 5 percent decrease from the previous year.

As part of the funding allocation, a homeless census was done throughout the county. At Thursday’s public meeting, United Samaritans Foundation chief operations manager Maris Sturtevant said she found that her analysis of the growth in homelessness and low-income families did not adequately match other organizations' research.

“The analysis that was presented to us was broken into three sections: the chronically homeless, the unsheltered, and the sheltered,” said Sturtevant. “The total that came out was less than it was two years ago, but when we did our survey on our food truck, specifically in Modesto, those looking for a free lunch increased by 6 percent.

“This analysis was done the same week. How can the homeless count be down when the homeless people that come to our truck are up 6 percent? Last year, we were at 14 percent and now we are at 20 percent.”

Sturtevant and Pitt soon came to the conclusion that the census charts were done roughly through applications without one-on-one interviews, which suggests a gap in analysis. Pitt said she will attempt to fix the estimates for next year’s census by executing a higher level of collaboration between agencies.

Pitt anticipates that the numbers will run higher than the current census as the years progress, and has applied for Emergency Solutions Grant funding, a million dollar grant from CalHome’s Mortgage Assistance Program and various public service grants for those most vulnerable.

“There is $80,000 in grants for these services and a contract for fair housing and tenant land disputes, which does get used quite a bit,” said Pitt. “We’ve applied for mini-grants to help target a few neighborhoods, such as the ones near the Public Safety Center where we can do $7,500 in forgivable loans to replace windows or perform energy efficiency upgrades. That is the kind of focus we are continuing to do for people who are ready for home ownership with down payment assistance.”

As the City of Turlock is complies with federal regulations, efforts are being made to include public opinion at a local level.

“We are concerned with what the public has to say,” said Pitt. “We want to gather data that accurately describes and quantifies housing and community development needs and to suggest workable solutions.”

Four other public forums to garner input on the Turlock/Stanislaus County HOME Consortium Action Plan for 2013-2014 have been scheduled:

·       -   6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Dutcher Middle School, 1441 Colorado Ave.

·       -   6 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 9 at Westside Ministries, 952 Columbia St.

·       -   6 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 30 at Senior Citizens Center, 1191 Cahill Ave.

·       -   7 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 13 at Pitman High School, 2525 W. Christoffersen Parkway

A copy of the Action Plan can also be found at the City’s website at