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City of Toledo conducting community survey

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

June 24, 2014: Latino families in Toledo still have an opportunity to weigh in on how future federal funds should be spent in the city. City leaders are conducting a community survey both online and in-person through July 2 to develop a strategic five-year plan.

Citizen input gathered from the survey will be analyzed to determine how to better allocate these federal resources to address community needs. City officials stated the survey only takes about 15 minutes to complete.

“This survey is very important for our next strategic plan which runs from 2015 to 2020,” said Bonita Bonds, commissioner of administrative services within the City of Toledo Dept. of Neighborhoods. “We would like the community to tell us how they would like to see these dollars allocated. Once we finalize this plan, we’re locked in for five years.”

The survey covers such critical areas as housing, infrastructure, homelessness, as well as public and social services, among others. The comprehensive plan deals with three pools of money the city receives each year from the federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HOME funding, and Emergency Solution Grant (ESG) funding.

Toledo received $6.8 million in CDBG funds this year, an amount that has been reduced significantly in recent years. Those funds are typically spent on social services, neighborhood and economic development activities. ESG monies are spent to help Toledo’s homeless. HOME dollars totaled about $1.7 million this year, while ESG funding amounted to $570,000.

HOME funds are meant to increase homeownership and affordable housing opportunities for moderate and low-income families and can be used for a variety of housing activities, according to local housing needs. Those uses include tenant-based rental assistance, housing rehabilitation, assistance to homebuyers, and new housing construction, and blight prevention and removal.

At one time, Toledo received more than $12 million in HUD funds annually, but federal budget cutbacks and declining population have led to fewer dollars. City officials stated the reduced amount makes how those dollars are spent even more critical.

“HUD is looking for a positive outcome,” said Ms. Bonds. “If we’re putting money toward housing, we have to get the best bang for our buck. If owner-occupied housing is one of the priorities the community identifies, then we should see an improvement in our housing stock, people who become homeowners within a certain income range that need assistance with these dollars.”

City leaders have conducted a series of public meetings throughout June, including at the East Toledo Family Center and the Believe Center, locations close to Latino families. Those community meetings have since ended.

“We have seen better numbers and a better turnout by reaching out in the community from all populations,” said Ms. Bonds.

The community survey will be used to identify community needs, establish strategies to meet those needs, and identify funding priorities that meet HUD eligibility guidelines. The comprehensive plan then will be developed based on that input from residents.

“This is a rare opportunity for our citizens to really have an input on how these dollars get spent. Although it’s a mandate from HUD that we do this, it’s something that we’re passionate about and we really want the community to help us with this plan,” said Ms. Bonds. “We don’t want to have to actually sit in the office and tell the community what we think is important. By getting input from the citizens, it helps us to better target these dollars.”

The survey can be found on the main page of the city’s website www.toledo.oh.gov. Paper copies of the survey can be obtained by calling the Dept. of Neighborhoods directly at 419-245-1400.

Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/24/14 20:19:40 -0700.




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