Tulsa City Council begins work on revamping block-grant rules
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2013
1/18/13 at 5:32 AM
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The Tulsa City Council took the first step Thursday to change the city ordinance that lays out the process the city uses to allocate and oversee Community Development Block Grants.
The federal funding - which amounts to millions of dollars each year - is allocated by the council annually to local organizations that serve the city's low- to moderate-income populations.
The proposed changes are a response to years of problems with the process. In 2008, an audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development resulted in a $1.5 million fine for misspent CDBG funds.
The city also was ordered in 2010 to repay an additional $456,147 in federal money that was misspent by a former CDBG recipient.
Late last year, HUD fined the city $704,930 for failing to spend CDBG funds in a timely manner.
The proposed changes, which received a first reading at the council's meeting Thursday night, are intended to streamline the process, require more accountability from funding recipients and keep councilors up to date on how the projects are proceeding.
The proposed ordinance changes also include seven proposals that were presented to city councilors Thursday afternoon by City Manager Jim Twombly, who said the city has been working to implement them for some time.
The administration's proposals deal with applicants seeking funding for housing rehabilitation or new construction projects - excluding homeowner minor repairs, emergency repairs and rehabilitation loans - and are intended to ensure up front that the applicants can follow through with the project.
The proposals include requiring applicants to provide a certified cost estimate and proof that they have control of the property and zoning approval.
Applicants must also demonstrate that they have the financial capacity to complete the project and document other funding sources dedicated to the project.
The administration has also proposed that applicants be required to start their projects within six months from the time they are awarded the CDBG funds and that the funds be spent within two years.
City councilors were told Thursday that the city has had to repay about $7 million in block grant funding since 1974 because the projects didn't meet HUD's national objectives.
The administration's final recommendation is that applicants provide proof that the project will meet HUD's national objectives within two years from completion of the project.
Under the administration's proposal, applicants would have to meet all of the proposed requirements before their applications would be considered.
Original Print Headline: City Council begins work on revamping block-grant rules
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313