The Columbia Art Center on Taylor Street was the site for the beginning of National Community Development Week in the city. The week helps bring awareness of the impact Community Building Development Grants (CBDG) have on cities around the nation.
The new art center is just one example of CBDG dollars being used by the city’s Department of Community Development.
“This week brings the community together with government officials to show the impact our projects are having on the city,” said Gloria Saeed, director of community development. “Funds are allocated annually from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide decent space and affordable housing.”
Saeed said grants were used to revitalize the current art center space following the damage suffered by its former location on Calhoun Street after the 2015 flood.
City Councilman Howard Duvall said this week is normally used as a call to action for communities and local government officials to lobby Congress to allocate the funds.
“This year is a bit unusual, seeing as Congress has already enacted the community development funds,” Duvall said.
Duvall said Congress authorized $3.3 billion in community block grants, an increase of $300 million compared to last year. Congress also allocated nearly $1.4 billion in home funds, an increase of $412 million.
“It’s great that Congress has recognized the importance of authorizing these funds early,” Duvall said. “It saves time trying to politic for additional funding.”
Dalton Tresvant, representative for U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, said the current funds have not yet been allocated to specific states and counties.
According to Duvall, South Carolina received $3.3 million in 2015, which community development partners bumped to $5.1 million. In 2016-17, the state received $2.5 million in federal dollars and another $2.6 million in private investment.
“This gives us the ability to impact the communities that don’t have the resources to develop out of our general fund budget,” Duvall said.
Other projects that have benefited from CBDG dollars include the continued revitalization of the Lyon Street Community. Saeed said the Columbia Housing Authority has built 12 new homes, with five of those homes being helped by city-provided dollars.
Funds are also being used to provide affordable financing for families whose household income is less than 80% of the area median income. “We are continuing to grow the community and serve the most vulnerable,” Saeed said.
When mentioning future projects, City Councilman Sam Davis said there are a number of areas where the dollars will benefit the city.
“Housing is always front and center,” Davis said. “We hope to work with projects that benefit areas to attract new business. We are also still working with families who have been impacted by the flood.”
The week will also include a homebuyer’s workshop Tuesday and Wednesday at Richland County Library on St. Andrews Road. The workshop will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“We’re trying to branch out some our services to not just the inner city, but also other parts of Richland and Lexington County,” Saeed said.