Grants reach far and wide to help Kaua‘i

LIHU‘E — The Parade of Projects on Thursday demonstrated the wide range of benefits to the community that come from the Community Development Block Grant Program.

Funding for the CDBG program is provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The entitlement program was enacted into law in 1974, followed by the HOME Investment Partnerships program enacted into law in 1990.

The programs provide decent, safe, sanitary and affordable housing opportunities, a suitable living environment and economic opportunities to low- and moderate-income persons, states a proclamation announcing Apr. 8 through 14 as National Community Development Week, which was read by the county’s Housing director Eugene Jimenez on behalf of Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.  

National Community Development Week is spearheaded by the National Community Development Association, an organization that sets aside a week in April to recognize and appreciate the CDBG and HOME programs, the proclamation states.

“We have been participating and celebrating this program for 38 years,” Jimenez said. “During that time, the county has been recipient to many millions of dollars to help its people.”

Grants funding CDBG and HOME have been utilized to create viable community development for activities such as affordable housing, anti-poverty programs and infrastructure development and by expanding opportunities for low- and moderate-income people, the proclamation states.

“While some counties choose to keep all of the monies, Kaua‘i invites the community to participate with the intent of making life better for its residents,” said Kerri Villa, the Kaua‘i CDBG coordinator working through the county’s Housing Agency, which administers the funds.

The Housing Agency has utilized CDBG and HOME resources to identify, prioritize and resolve pressing local problems, such as affordable housing, development of public and private facilities that principally benefit low- and moderate-income people, public service needs, job creation and housing and facilities rehabilitation.

Steven Spears, the executive director of the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity, said the current project on Kaumuali‘i Highway to prepare the ‘Ele‘ele Iluna site for more houses has been partially funded by CDBG since 2009. The 125-home project received $200,000 in 2011 toward the $1.92 million project.

Spears participation was on the heels of a visit to the Lawmakers Listen event on Tuesday, during which Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity sought state help for its affordable housing project.

Trink Martin, a Kaua‘i Economic Opportunity driver of the Care-a-Van homeless outreach program for 19 years, said her van of one month was funded through CDBG, the new Ford replacing a 12-year-old van that had more than 150,000 miles of service, making its trips to sites frequented by homeless people to deliver information, supplies and necessities.

“The county received CDBG and HOME funds that people can use to rehabilitate or buy homes, too,” Villa said. “We look for ways to make money to re-use and recycle the funds.”

Steven Franco, a housing specialist with the county’s Housing Agency, said they have three units in the Kamamalu condominium project and a house in Molokoa III, which they are in the process of selling to qualified people whose incomes qualify at or below 80 percent of the HUD limit guidelines.

Villa said the repayment of these loans help the county make money, the funds being put back into the program to further expand its services.

Gwen Yamamoto Lau of the Hawai‘i Community Reinvestment Corp., based on O‘ahu, offered information on its Residential Rehab Revolving Loan Fund, its  purpose to provide low-cost loans to benefit low- and moderate-income homeowners in the County of Kaua‘i for home repairs and/or the installation of a solar hot water system.

The Easter Seals’ Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Community Center West, formerly the old Waimea Dispensary, is well on its way to an August opening, said Ellen Ching, director of the Easter Seals, Kaua‘i.

“The project, coming in at $2 million, received $200,000 from CDBG funds,” Ching said, Villa noting they wanted to ensure funds were being used at different parts of the island to maximize benefits.

Zoli Wall of Kanuikapono in Anahola said CDBG funds enabled them to acquire a wind turbine as well as planter boxes for the project of re-creating a village setting from ancient Hawai‘i.

Desiree Vea of Hawaiian Community Assets, who recently received accolades for her work in Washington, D.C., said CDBG funding helps with their programs to build self-sufficiency through budgeting classes and other programs, the Anahola-based office working with Hale Ho‘omalu, Nana’s House and other community organizations helping to make families more self-sufficient.

“We try to serve as much people as best as we can,” Vea said.

∫ Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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