The city of Elk Grove is in the process of gathering community input to assist in the development of its 2020-25 plan for identifying housing and community development priorities.

Every five years, Elk Grove receives nearly $5 million in federal funds to assist low-income to moderate-income residents. From that funding, about $900,000 to $950,000 is available per year.

Elk Grove’s funding for the current fiscal year from this federal program is $920,000.

These funds are received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Alicia Tutt, the city’s housing and grant specialist, mentioned three goals for this funding program: 1) Provide decent, safe and sanitary housing; 2) Provide a suitable living environment; 3) Expand economic opportunities.

“All of those goals really focus on low-income households,” she said. “For low-income households, that means for 2019, one-person household at $46,850 (annually) for household income, and then a four-person household is $66,900, annually.”

Tutt added that the city is seeking $4 million to $5 million in federal funds, which would be spent from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2025.

Prior to becoming eligible for these funds, the city is required to prepare a five-year Community Development Block Grant Consolidated Plan, as well as an annual Action Plan, which describes how each year’s funds would be spent.

As part of the process to acquire community feedback on how the city’s funding could be spent, the city held two community meetings on Feb. 4. Both gatherings used the same format and included a charting activity in which participants identified community needs such as assistance for disabled and homeless persons, and small businesses.

In the category of affordable housing, community suggestions included spending money on tiny homes, condominiums and mobile homes, hiring multi-language staff to assist Elk Grove’s diverse population, and rehabilitating existing affordable housing.

Attendees also provided their input in the category of community development and public services.

Suggestions in that category included establishing nonprofit health care clinics, and providing more support for multi-ethnic programs.

Another activity at the recent community meetings was creating a list of priorities, such as supporting Elk Grove’s community garden and agricultural workforce development, and homeownership opportunities for low-income residents, and connecting residents through community centers for various cultures.

Sarah Bontrager, the city’s housing and public services manager, commented on one of the community’s dominant concerns: homelessness.

“There’s a lot of community concern around that issue and a lot of compassion and a lot of ideas for what can be done,” she said.

At the second Feb. 4 meeting, the city received various suggestions for how to assist people in Elk Grove’s homeless community. Some of those suggestion included using empty retail centers for temporary housing, and adding overnight shelters, day centers and long-term housing.

Bontrager emphasized the city’s interest in obtaining community input on how the city should spend the funds highlighted in the Feb. 4 meetings.

“We need to get out in the community and try to understand the different perspectives on needs in the community,” she said. “We’re just really looking to get some quality feedback that we can incorporate into the plan as we figure out how we’re going to spend what will probably be almost $5 million over the next five years.”

Bontrager noted that a lot of possibilities exist through the Community Development Block Grant.

“(It is) a pretty flexible fund,” she said. “Aside from its focus on assisting low-income people, there’s a flexibility in the types of work you can do with it. So, we need some direction from the community as to what is important to them in how we spend these dollars.”

Yang Xiong, who participated in the second meeting of this month’s community meetings, expressed appreciation for the opportunity he had to provide his feedback.

“I like that process – the opportunity to contribute to say what I would like the city to focus on, and I hope that the suggestions would actually get somewhere,” he said.

Xiong added that he would have liked to see more attendees at the meetings.

“They’re seeking input and suggestions on what to focus on, and I would have liked to see more people show up to provide feedback,” he said.

Fourteen residents attended the first meeting, and seven residents participated in the next meeting.

The Feb. 4 public meetings did not mark the community’s final opportunities to provide input on the city’s development of its 2020-25 plan for identifying housing and community development priorities.

Public input is also being gathered by the city from the Elk Grove Winter Sanctuary program, the Elk Grove Food Bank, the Elk Grove United Methodist Church’s Weekend Meal Ministry, and affordable apartment complexes.

Community members can also participate in an online survey at www.elkgrovecity.org/cdbg through Feb. 23. As of Feb. 4, more than 200 people completed the survey.

Feedback from the community will be incorporated into the draft Consolidated Plan.

That draft will be presented to the City Council on April 8, and the public will have the opportunity to comment on that document from April 13 to May 13.

In anticipation for adoption, the council will review the final draft of the Consolidated Plan, along with the city’s annual budget, on May 13.