SCHENECTADY – The city spent the past year helping 10 first-time homeowners purchase their properties, and it partnered with Habitat for Humanity to fund the construction of seven new homes, city Development Director Kristin Diotte said Monday during a presentation on how it spent federal block grant money.
More than $1.5 million, or the bulk of the $2.6 million the city received by way of block grants the past year, was used toward enhancing housing opportunities, Schenectady’s foremost goal for block grant spending, Diotte told a City Council committee.
The remainder of the money, more than $707,000, was used on the secondary goal of expanding economic and workforce development, while $186,000 was expended on strengthening neighborhoods. More than $237,000 was spent on administrative costs, Diotte said.
Diotte’s overview of the spending was part of a Consolidated Annual Performance Evaluation Report the city will send to the government detailing its use of Community Development Block Grant and HOME program funds.
The report drew praise from Councilwoman Carmel Patrick; city inhabitants can provide their feedback during the 15-day public comment period on the report until Oct. 5. Sept. 27 has been targeted for a public hearing before the Common Council.
Of note, Diotte said:
– Pending transactions on all seven Habitat for Humanity homes are expected to close by June 2022.
– The Bureau of Code Enforcement has begun working with Better Community Neighborhoods Inc., an organization that will help guide homeowners to the appropriate resources for home repairs.
– Eighteen blighted properties were demolished, and many of the lots were sold to adjacent property owners, yielding them the benefit of both additional yard space and increased property values.
Some of the homes were razed using money from federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act.
Diotte said the city expanded economic and workforce development with the money by assisting more than 60 small businesses with $376,000 in COVID-19 relief through the CARES Act.
The small businesses received grants that ranged from $2,500 to $10,000 to help with the purchase of personal protective equipment, payroll, insurance, and training.
“The grants really helped many businesses to remain operational and to continue employment,” Diotte said.
The Schenectady Economic Empowerment Center was developed last year and is part of the City’s Affirmative Action Office. It assists small businesses with training, minority and women-owned business enterprise certifications and webinars.
Diotte also noted that a number of key infrastructure projects were completed with block grant funding, including the paving of more than a mile of streets and installation of sidewalks around Jerry Burrell Park and Orchard Park.
She said neighborhoods were strengthened by helping more than 15 programs and organizations join forces to provide programming, including arts/culture, urban farming, mentoring, academic support, volunteer opportunities, catering, and entrepreneurial skills to more than 1,000 young people in the city.