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Forsyth County Commissioners air federal funding for urban housing
Census Progress16 2

New federal funding could come to benefit certain Forsyth County projects.

During a recent work session, Forsyth County commissioners heard a presentation on a possible federal grant from the Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Program with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

“The goal of the program is to provide decent housing and [a] suitable living environment and expand economic opportunities, particularly for low- and moderate-income people,” said Nancy Smallwood of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.

Commissioners did not take any action on the funding but did direct County Attorney Ken Jarrard to go over the matter before discussing it at their scheduled Aug. 9 work session.

A decision must be made by Sept. 9.

The 2016 estimate for funds the county would receive is about $760,000.

Funds could be used for certain allowable activities like acquisitions of property, housing, special economic development activities and public facilities for buildings that are not part of the “general conduct of government,” such as recreation, health and senior centers.

Forsyth County has previously received $1.3 million in competitive grant funding from the grant in 1985, 1990 and 1995.

“Most of the funding has been spent on the health care center and the senior center in the county,” Smallwood said.

If the commissioners vote to receive the funding, the county will be required to submit a five-year consolidated plan, an annual action plan, an annual performance evaluation, an analysis of impediments to fair housing and a citizen participation plan.

The consolidated plan must include a housing and homeless needs assessment, strategic plan, housing marketing analysis and one-year action plan. Each year a performance evaluation must be done, and a newly required fair housing plan will also need to be completed every five years.

“We are going to be setting goals in the document to overcome housing challenges,” said Tom Brown, director of planning and community development for the county. “It’s going to look at a long list of things. It’s going to look at regulations on density, lot size, house size, how we define a family, do we require certain special permits.”

The county would also have to follow federal financial management and procurement guidelines, complete an environmental review on any grant projects and follow federal rules on labor standards and fair housing and non-discrimination.

Forsyth County has to give the city of Cumming the opportunity to participate and can participate with or without the city’s involvement.

Several surrounding cities and counties take part or are eligible for the grant.

Medium and low incomes are relative to Forsyth County, which has a median household income of $68,300. A family of four is considered low-income if it makes a total of less than $54,550; very low income is considered earning less than $34,100; and extremely low income is less than 24,250.

Per the presentation, areas with higher-than-average rates of poverty are in north Forsyth and around the city.

Forsyth County became eligible for the funds once the federal census found the county to have a population of more than 200,000.