SCHENECTADY — City officials will soon have broader latitude in how they can use federal funds to support public service projects in select distressed neighborhoods.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has approved Schenectady’s request for a new designation that will create greater flexibility how they can use federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for community initiatives.
Federal regulations cap Schenectady’s annual funding expenditures for public service projects — health care, child care, job training, education, addiction treatment, senior services and fair housing initiatives — at 15 percent.
The new Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) designation lifts that restriction, allowing the city to continue to “strengthen vital services, improve neighborhoods and increase the quality of life for residents and families in our community,” said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy in a prepared statement.
Three neighborhoods stand benefit by the change: Eastern Avenue, Hamilton Hill and Vale.
The city received $2.9 million in CDBG funding in 2018-19, a number that rises to $3.6 million once other grants are included.
Public service funds totaled $338,530.
Money has been allocated to roughly four dozen projects and has been used for everything from boosting cultural and home purchasing programs to roof repairs at the YWCA’s Washington Avenue facility.
Past recipients have included the Boys and Girls Club of Schenectady, the Hamilton Hill Arts Center, Better Neighborhoods Inc., Schenectady Community Ministries, Schenectady Community Action Program and Habitat for Humanity.
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McCarthy declined to discuss potential new programs that may be made possible through the designation because he said he did not want to appear to publicly support one project or another.
A full 79 percent of residents living in the affected neighborhoods are characterized as low-to-moderate income, according to documents provided by the city, with an average of 39 percent of families living below the federal poverty level.
The average median household income in the three U.S. Census blocks included in the designation is $19,536.
The year-long effort spearheaded by the city’s development department included a forum to collect public input last November.
“By partnering with residents and community organizations, it is our goal to complement and connect ongoing initiatives and ultimately build the capacity necessary for meaningful change to take place,” said Director of Development Kristin Diotte in a statement.
The City Council previously approved applying for the designation, and city officials will request that the Development and Planning Committee adopt it at their meeting next week as an amendment to an existing planning road map.
An action plan containing potential new projects is scheduled to be presented to the City Council in early April.
Applications are due May 15.