In recent weeks Baltimore has received more than $37 million in federal stimulus disbursements to stabilize neighborhoods, assist residents with energy costs and improvements all while rebuilding the local economy during the prolonged recession.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) awarded the Healthy Neighborhoods Consortium $26,092,880 and $5,289,216 to Chicanos Por La Causa Inc. on behalf of locally based Mi Casa Inc. The two agencies were the only recipients of funding in Maryland. There were 482 applicants, requesting over $15 billion in support.
Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the grants were awarded competitively to applicants who developed the most innovative ideas to rebuild local communities by purchasing vacant, foreclosed properties and putting them back into productive use, while demonstrating that they have the capacity to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.
“It is extraordinary that two NSP applications from Baltimore received awards,” said Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano. “We have wonderful neighborhoods that were turning around and poised for continued long term investment before the foreclosure crisis. This support will ensure that those investments will not be in vain.”
The proposed neighborhoods in Baltimore where work will be focused are: Belair-Edison, Better Waverly, Coldstream Homestead Montebello, Reservoir Hill, Patterson Park/McElderry Park, Barclay/Old Goucher, Johnston Square and Ednor Gardens. The federal government appropriated $2 billion in NSP funds on an emergency basis to mitigate the impacts of foreclosures and abandonment on communities around the country.
The award also requires housing counseling for families receiving homebuyer assistance funds. In addition, it will protect homebuyers by requiring grantees to ensure that new homebuyers under the program obtain a mortgage from a lender who agrees to comply with sound lending practices.
In July, the Healthy Neighborhoods Consortium, which includes Healthy Neighborhoods Inc., Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development, Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity, Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center and Telesis Baltimore Corporation, submitted an application for the funds. Mi Casa Inc. participated in a national consortium of non-profit organizations, led by Chicanos Por La Causa.
President Barack Obama signed the Recovery Act into law last Feb. 17 as the country faced the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The $787 billion Recovery Act program has already provided nearly $100 billion in tax relief for families and businesses, helped fill critical budget gaps for hard-hit state and local governments and jump-started tens of thousands of projects that are laying a new foundation for long-term economic growth.
Energy package seeks to cuts cost, create jobs
Citizens and energy advocates were on hand for the announcement that Baltimore is also receiving a $6.37 million energy stimulus package from the U.S. Department of Energy.
One million dollars of the funding will be allocated to begin a Community Energy Grant Program. The program will enable community organizations and non-profits like “A Step Forward,” an energy efficient transitional housing unit in west Baltimore, to perform cost-saving energy improvements in neighborhood buildings and facilities. Applications for the program will become available this spring.
“With the new stimulus funds we have received, the city will be able to advance further towards becoming a cleaner, greener and sustainable city,” said Mayor Sheila Dixon.
The stimulus funds will be used in 18 program activities ranging from community projects and renewable energy to new energy financing structures. More than 30 percent of the funding will be put to use in the community, for the creation of new initiatives and to fill funding gaps or shortfalls in existing energy programs. Funds will be used to supplement the Baltimore Neighborhood Energy Challenge, a program that helps households reduce energy use.
A new Baltimore Commercial Energy Challenge will be implemented for greener and more energy efficient buildings. A youth energy conservation component will be added to the existing summer YouthWorks program. Plans also include installation of city building retrofits for utility cost savings.
The city’s energy division estimates that once fully implemented, 500 jobs will have been created or retained by the stimulus package.
For more on city’s energy efficiency and sustainability efforts, go to: www.baltimorecity.gov and click on the ‘Greener’ button.