City Seeks Public Input for HUD Funding Priorities

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city’s Community Planning and Economic Development Department will collect input from residents and stakeholders over the next few months to determine where it plans to spend funds from key federal programs. 

The department kicked off that process Friday morning with a meeting at the Covelli Centre. About 60 people attended the meeting, which was held in the municipal arena’s community room.

The city is in the process of preparing its five-year Consolidated Plan for 2020 through 2024, as well as its one-year Annual Action Plan for Fiscal Year 2020-2021, a process Beverly Hosey, interim director of the city’s Community Development Agency, outlined at the meeting. 

The Consolidated Plan, which the city must update every five years, serves as a planning document for the city and is required to receive funds from various U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs such as the Community Development Block Grant, Home Investment Partnerships and Emergency Solutions Grant program. It will serve as a guideline for spending priorities for those federal funding streams.

The one-year plan, which will be announced once the funding is made available, will identify the specific priorities for the year.  

Activities prioritized under the 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan included neighborhood stabilization, street improvements and economic development. What the priorities will be in the new five-year plan will be determined from public input, Hosey said.  

“Because we are working on a new five-year plan, there’s a lot of things that are going to be on the table that might not have been on the table before,” she continued.

Items such as infrastructure, public services and public facilities might have been priorities in the past, “but we can’t just assume that,” Hosey added. 

Beverly Hosey (right) led the discussion. Also attending was Nikki Posterli, director of the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development.

The city is in the process of hiring a consultant who is expected to begin work in April to help draft the plan. Stakeholder workshops, surveys and public meetings will also take place in the spring, as well as a needs assessment and market analysis. The consultant will go over the citizen participation plan to ensure public participation meets federal guidelines. 

Hosey called on those attending Friday’s meeting to reach out to local youth to get involved as well as people in their neighborhoods who “don’t tend to come to some of our meetings” but their input is important as well, she said. 

The five-year plan should be completed in June or July, and the one-year plan will draw on elements of it, Hosey said. Both plans must be submitted to HUD by Aug. 16. “We will definitely have it in way before the deadline,” she said. 

Leah Merritt, CEO of YWCA Mahoning Valley, applauded the community engagement effort. Her organization operates a job skills program using CDBG funds and used the Home program for the 2010 renovation of its Rayen Avenue building and to renovate five apartments on Kensington Avenue.

“I like the idea that we might be thinking about doing something a little bit different or out of the box, hopefully,” Merritt continued. “Our city has obviously changed over the past 10 or 15 years, so it’s really time to touch base. As much participation as we can get from the community, the better.” 

Stephanie Gilchrist characterized the information session as “impactful.” She is executive director of Inspiring Minds Youngstown – which benefited from CBDG funding to help establish its offices on the South Side – and is director of the Youngstown Business Incubator’s Women in Entrepreneurship program. 

“It is now allowing us all, as community game changers and shakers and movers, to have a voice in the direction of the city when it comes to economic development and the community planning for our city,” Gilchrist said.

Pictured above: About 60 people attended the meeting to kick off planning for Youngstown’w five-year Consolidated Plan.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.