Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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Burlington vies to supplant Greensboro as funding hub for affordable housing

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The city of Burlington may be about to give Greensboro a run for its money as it strives to become the state’s newest regional clearinghouse for federal funds to support affordable housing.

Over the past couple of months, Burlington has cobbled together a network of other local governments that are in need of someone to administer their annual allocations under the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

Until recently, many of these localities have relied on Greensboro to distribute these funds, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) routinely distributes to bankroll the construction and rehabilitation of housing for low-income residents. Last year, however, officials in Greensboro proposed some changes to these long-standing arrangements that compelled Burlington and other subordinate jurisdictions to break ranks.

Since its departure from Greensboro’s orbit, Burlington has decided to make its own bid to become a funding hub under the HOME Program. With the aid of the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, a provider of various services to counties and municipalities in this part of the state, the city has begun to assemble its own consortium of local governments that have jointly agreed to participate in this federal initiative.

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On Monday, Michael Blair, a consultant with the regional council, told Burlington’s city council that he has recently sent HUD the paperwork to form this new Burlington-centered consortium. In the meantime, Blair said that he and his colleagues have begun to line up support from neighboring jurisdictions interested in joining the upstart collective.

“What we’re recommending basically is that the city become the lead entity,” he added.

“Then, by June 30, you have to have a resolution from all the members saying they want to join the consortium, and you also have to have a consortium agreement written up that all of them accept.”

Blair said that, as of that afternoon, he had already received formal commitments from Davidson, Rockingham, and Alamance counties – with Alamance County’s commissioners having thrown in with the consortium earlier that day. Blair added that he has also received an informal “acknowledgement” from Randolph County. Meanwhile, he and Matt Dolge, the regional council’s executive director, were scheduled to make a pitch to Caswell County’s commissioners immediately after their appearance in Burlington.

Blair told Burlington’s leaders that, if HUD accepts their application to form a consortium, the proposal will still need a nod of approval from the state government. He conceded that the consortium’s formation will ultimately deprive the state of some of the funds it now gets from HUD, although he added that officials in Raleigh have deigned to allow two other consortiums to form in the past couple of years.

Blair said that, if everything goes according to plan, the city will ultimately be responsible for disbursing some $2.3 million a year that the consortium’s would-be members can expect HUD to provide for affordable housing. According to Blair, about $400,000 of this revenue would be set aside specifically for projects within Burlington and Alamance County.

In deference to a recommendation from Blair, the members of Burlington’s city council adopted their own resolution in support of the consortium’s creation at their next regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

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