FLINT, MI — Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s plan for spending $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds on home repairs for residents could be approved in the next 24 hours despite lingering objections from some residents and City Council members.
The council took no action on the program when it met last week but could give it both initial and final approval when it meets on Monday, July 24, potentially ending months of debate over how much of the city’s remaining ARPA funds should be dedicated to the city’s housing stock and whether a citizen advisory committee involved in the process was properly appointed by Neeley.
Several residents said last week that at least $16 million should be set aside for home repairs and two members of the council were among six residents who sued the city last week, saying Flint’s ARPA Community Advisory Committee, which recommended the spending, was illegally established and violated the city charter and the state’s Open Meetings Act.
Flint resident Claire McClinton said the city hasn’t dedicated enough of its $94.7 million in ARPA funds to programs that directly benefit residents.
“We know $94 million has come to the city and we as residents … have not felt the relief that we so desire,” McClinton said. “We’re tired of waiting.”
The council approved an ARPA budget in October, spelling out how to spend what was then $60 million in remaining ARPA funds.
Since that time, the mayor appointed the ARPA advisory committee to make recommendations on which organizations should distribute the federal stimulus dollars in various categories.
The city says the committee has finished its work and the $5-million program for home repairs is the first recommendation to come to the council for approval.
It suggests that four groups — Habitat for Humanity ($2.3 million), Metro Community Development ($1.5 million), Court Street Village ($875,000), and Central Park and Fairfield Village neighborhoods ($150,000) — evaluate and fund citizen applications.
Metro and Habitat would each receive $1.5 million for home repairs, Court Street would provide house painting, Central Park and Fairfield Village would make roof repairs, and Habitat would receive an additional $875,000 for property tax, water bill and homeowner insurance assistance.
Collectively, the groups would provide an estimated 380 homeowners with some funding with no more than $10,000 available to each household.
To be eligible, residents must have owned their homes for at least one year, be under 300% of the federal poverty level, and have no outstanding bills pending with the city.
That level of funding isn’t enough in a city with a high level of poverty and so much sub-standard housing, residents like Keishaun Wade have said.
“It’s imperative that we as a city are investing in our housing inventory …,” Wade told the council at a committee meeting on Wednesday, July 19. “The issue is much larger than what $5 million can do.”
Wade has supporters on the council who want more of the remaining ARPA funds dedicated to home repairs or who have objected to the entire distribution process.
Other council members have defended the process, saying funding is limited and any additions to home repairs will result in cuts in other areas, including blight, economic development, public safety, public health and youth development.
Council members Eric Mays (Ward 1) and Tonya Burns (Ward 6) are among six Flint residents who sued the city last week, claiming the city and Neeley violated the city charter and state law by appointing the citizens advisory committee that’s recommending Metro, Habitat, Court Street, Central Park and Fairfield Village receive home repair money for distribution to residents.
The city has declined to comment on the lawsuit and had not filed a response to it as of Monday in Genesee Circuit Court.
In announcing the home repair recommendation, the mayor said in a news release last week that “help is on the way.”
“If the Flint City Council approves these allocations, the administration is prepared to move swiftly to implement contracts with service providers and make these critical resources available for Flint residents. These home repair programs will improve quality of life for the most vulnerable members of our community by making Flint homes safe places where families can thrive.”
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