City Seeks input from residents on priorities for H'burgBy BETH BUNCH,
Clarence P. Williams wants to hear some suggestions so that he can make a plan.
Williams is division manager for the Hattiesburg Urban Development Department and he is tasked with identifying and prioritizing the city’s community development activities for the next five years. He has been hosting public hearings to help create a required Consolidated Plan to describe the types of projects and activities it will pursue with Community Development Block Grant and Home Investment Partnership funds. The plans are required every five years.
Williams said the plan depends on the comments he receives from the city’s residents.
“I’m trying to be an advocate,” he said at a recent meeting at Thames Elementary School, “but I need to have comments to know what to advocate. If we don’t have needs identified in the consolidated plan, it’s hard to change the plan.”
The Community Development Block Grant, one of the longest-running programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, funds local community development activities such as affordable housing, anti-poverty programs and infrastructure development.
The HOME Investment Partnerships Program is a type of United States federal assistance provided by HUD to states in order to provide decent and affordable housing, particularly housing for low- and very low-income Americans. It is the largest federal block grant to states and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income families, providing about $2 billion each year.
Andrew Ellard, Hattiesburg’s director of Urban Development, said the hearings are important.
“These public hearings are an excellent opportunity for our citizens to provide input on the front-end on what they believe should be our priorities, from housing rehabilitation to demolition activities to infrastructure projects, education initiatives or a host of other eligible projects,” he said.
Among the items discussed at the hearing were the lack of access to fresh food in eastern Hattiesburg, use of funds to divide up a large building to provide shelter for the homeless and instituting a rental ordinance to set up a voluntary registry for single- and multi-family residences.
The next hearing will be on Feb. 27 at Mount Olive Baptist Church.
Suggestions and comments received at all meetings, as well as those received in writing, will be taken into consideration in preparing the Consolidated Plan.
Written comments must be received by Friday, Feb. 9. For questions or more information, please call (601) 554-1006.