Money from the federal government will help Frederick continue to fund critical programs to support affordable housing in the city, officials said this week. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $419,485 to Frederick through its Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG).
The amount is less than allocations to Cumberland ($797,370), Hagerstown ($822,924) and Harford County ($1,122,356). But city officials said the process for allocations is complex, and includes factors like poverty levels, the age of housing and whether it is in disrepair.
According to the most recent U.S. Census data, Frederick’s poverty rate is 11.1 percent. Cumberland’s is 23.5 percent, Hagerstown’s is 25.7 percent and Harford County is 6.7 percent.
Kimberly Ashkenazi, who sits on the county’s Affordable Housing Council and works in the city’s Department of Housing and Human Services, said census data and Congress help drive how much each jurisdiction receives.
City officials must thoroughly explain in an annual report how they plan to use the CBDG funding, Ashkenazi added. Some of the funds are used for programs like Sold on Frederick II, which offers up to $10,000 to first-time home buyers for down payments and closing costs.
Demand for that program varies each year, but Ashkenazi estimated it serves anywhere from five to 20 households.
CBDG funding also goes to various nonprofits and community organizations, including: The Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, the Housing Authority of the City of Frederick, Community Living, Interfaith Housing Alliance, Way Station and Asian American Center.
Ramenta Cottrell, Frederick’s director of housing and human services, said much of the funding can be used to help pay for infrastructure improvements and similar projects for those nonprofits and community organizations.
“We are obviously looking at people that are considered low to moderate income, who are trying to be either first-time home buyers or trying to stay in their homes or upgrade their homes,” Cottrell said. “Those would probably be our three biggest targets.”
The income limit for a single-person household for Sold on Frederick II is $70,600. For four people, it’s $100,800.
Nick Brown, executive director of The Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, said CBDG funding is currently used for case management salaries and also for a project on Hayward Road in Frederick, which will help house numerous homeless families and offer programming, beginning next year.
About $25,000 of CBDG funding is being used for the rehabilitation project, which is at a property that used to house Frederick County Public Schools staff.
Brown is thankful for the federal funding, but he added, with a slight chuckle: “We could always use more.”
It will be interesting for his nonprofit and others to see how federal funding is impacted in a post-COVID world, Brown said. Housing the homeless is one area where more funding is always needed, he said.
“Emergency shelter will always be needed, regardless of the next [funding] model that comes down,” Brown said. “And we are the sole emergency shelter provider [citywide] ... grants that operate the shelter programs, and permanent supportive housing programs, those are what we’re looking for.”
Looking ahead, Cottrell said it’s tricky to know whether the city would be able to use more CBDG funding.
There are many regulations attached to how CDBG funding and other sources within the Department of Housing and Human Services are used. Cottrell estimated there are at least a few dozen of them.
And each case is very specific, as each individual might meet or not meet certain requirements for grants or other monies, she added.
“Sometimes, it’s not about the unavailability of funding sources, sometimes it’s aligning them or working with our partners,” Cottrell said. “Frederick is a pretty resourceful county, where there are a lot of resources, compared to the need. Resources — not just meaning money — resources meaning people who are willing to give, people who are willing to volunteer.”