Kent receives less funding from HUD

Tim Magaw

The City of Kent expects to receive almost $300,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development this year to address housing and development needs in the city.

This year’s allocations, however, are nearly $10,000 less than the city received last year.

The expected allocation is from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, which was developed 34 years ago to ensure affordable housing, provide services to low and moderate-income individuals and to create jobs. The program has offered more than $115 billion in assistance throughout its history.

Plans Administrator Mike Weddle said Kent has received reduced allocations from the program each year, which has made it difficult to keep up with the community’s needs.

Weddle said these allocations have consistently dropped over the last 10 years. For example, in 2001, Kent received slightly more than $440,000, which is $140,000 more than the city expects to receive this year.

“In part, it’s based on the objectives of the administration in office,” Weddle said. “They determine how the federal funds will be allocated. HUD allocation has been under fire forever.”

HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said the department is trying to reform the program because the formula for the program is outdated and has changed very little since the Gerald Ford administration when it was implemented.

“Places like Kent really ought to be getting more and aren’t because we have a 1978 formula in 2008,” he said. “It’s a matter of formula fairness.”

This outdated formula, Sullivan said, is evident because many areas with a high need for assistance receive less money, and areas with little need are receiving more money. Areas with identical needs, he added, are receiving wildly different amounts of money.

Sullivan said HUD is also feeling pressure from the Office of Management and Budget because of the financial stresses caused by two wars and heavy budget deficits. When faced with the choice, the office looks at the discretionary side of the ledger to cut spending. Although popular, the Community Development Block Grant program is on that side of the ledger, Sullivan added.

“These are either programs we can fund or not,” he said. “CDGB is very popular, but it’s still discretionary.”

Despite the decrease in funding, Kent released a draft of how the allocated funds may be spent. The city is now looking for input from the community through May 10 on the proposed spending.

“It’s an assurance we’re not using the funds in a means that the community would object to,” Weddle said. “It is required to put it out and say this is where we’re going to spend the money.”

With the expected allocations, the city has proposed to fund activities such as business development, homeless services, energy efficiency and others. Weddle said HUD requires grantees to carry out activities that aid in eliminating slums or blight, assisting low and moderate-income residents and offering any emergency relief in case of a natural disaster.

“Within limits, we have broad latitude with how we allocate the money as long as we meet one of the national objectives,” Weddle said. “We can pretty much direct our activities to whatever we believe will further one of those objectives.”

One of the major objectives of the city, according to the plan, is to expand economic opportunities to low and moderate-income individuals. In Kent, the median household income is just below $30,000, which is more than $10,000 less than the state’s average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

To view Kent’s action plan for 2008, visit

Contact public affairs reporter Timothy Magaw at [email protected].