Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Miami Gardens wants input on how to spend federal grant money

Miami Gardens wants to hear from residents who need assistance with home improvements or social services.

The city’s Office of Community Development has drafted its plan for the coming year’s community development block grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The draft of the plan is available at City Hall and through the city website until July 16.

The city is asking residents to submit comments on the plan, which will be submitted to HUD in August. The program year begins in October.

The priorities for the funding include public services like delivering meals to the elderly, a food pantry program and after-school tutoring during the school year. The other priority areas are housing rehabilitation and infrastructure improvements.

Resident participation remains a challenge for the community development office, according to director Laurin Yoder. She said only a small portion of residents tend to utilize the programming, despite a strong need throughout the city,

“The city has over 100,000 people, but there’s just a handful of people who know about our program because we’ve been able to help them,” Yoder said.

She said steady decreases in funding also make things challenging. In the past, the city has received about $1 million or more. But this year, Miami Gardens will receive $999,851.

“The funding that we do have, we try to use as efficiently as possible,” Yoder said.

The plan will focus on certain target areas of the city where a large portion of residents have what HUD defines as a low to moderate income, which is less than or 80 percent of the area median income. Some of those areas include the Bunche Park, Rainbow Park and Vista Verde neighborhoods along with about eight other areas.

Despite some of the concerns over citizen involvement, Yoder said that residents’ input has an impact on how the city prioritizes its plans. Last year the comments and suggestions focused on housing rehabilitation and now the the city has about 245 applications for housing rehabilitation and more than 400 applicants on the wait list.

The grants can pay for home improvements such as hurricane shutters and roof repairs.

“Sometimes [the comments] play a role in future years,” Yoder said. “It may not always reflect in our action plan, but it would reflect in our housing policies.”