Money City Council hopes to receive grant to improve city housing By The New Political Posted on February 4, 2013 4 min read 0 0 475 The City of Athens may soon be eligible for up to $500,000 through a federally sponsored grant to assist those in need of housing improvements within the city limits. During Monday’s city council meeting, Fourth Ward Rep. Christine Fahl introduced an ordinance allowing the mayor to enter into enter the city of Athens for a grant application with the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP). The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and organized through the Office of Community Development and the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA), is designed to provide the “health, safety and welfare of the residents of the City of Athens,” according to the ordinance. “We have been applying this off and on for about eight or nine years,” Mayor Paul Wiehl said. “It really has a lot to do with housing improvements in general for those with low and moderate income within the city.” HUD, a government-funded department, hopes the CHIP grant will provide “strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality, affordable homes for all Americans,” according to a statement released from Shaun Donovan, secretary of HUD. The grant works best when applied to low-income issues such as home ownership and repair. Mayor Wiehl mentioned that past mayors’ attempts to accomplish too much with too few funds resulted in fewer residents being helped. “We do some down payment assistance,” Mayor Paul Wiehl said. “Usually it takes about 18 months for the grant to run its course and we try to keep ourselves within the reaches of what we can do.” The city hopes to partner with area landlords and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter when providing for residents. The grant’s parameters require landlords to cover 50 percent of the funds needed to repair occupied rentals. Doing so also requires landlords to allow the city access to their financial records. “The landlords are usually reluctant to do that,” Wiehl said. “You also have to cater to low and moderate income and therefore, the rents have to be in the range of low and moderate income, which is not the case for student rentals.” Plans for how the money could be used to assist Habitat for Humanity are also being finalized as the mayor’s office plans for two empty lots on Alexander St. to be provided for the organization to build on. Normally the grant would provide approximately $20,000 for Habitat for Humanity to purchase the lots needed. But the city has decided to give them the lots. “So that means the 20,000 of down payment could be used for the building of the house,” Wiehl said.