Since I started writing about grants for Grants Guys, one thing I have encountered over and over is bad information about several government grants on various blogs. This bad information usually runs from mildly misleading to patently false. The single biggest offender here seems to be the Community Development Block Grant or CDBG. But really let’s not blame this grant as it is certainly not the grant’s fault. And this grant can help you with housing funding just not usually in the ways that some blogs claim it can.
I have seen claims written about the CDBG that would make you think it is in fact the Superman of all grants. That it will buy you a house. That it will fund your renovation project. That there is free government money there for the taking and all you have to do is apply. Worse than all that, I have also found “services” that offer to apply for the CDBG for you and they only charge a small fee. But what is really most offensive about this misinformation is the simple fact that regardless of whether you apply for it or not no individual is ever going to receive a CDBG. Services offering to do just that are preying on your understanding of block grants and are just trying to rip you off.
Now, the CDBG does in fact help real people with housing issues. It was created by congress in 1974 to fund urban community development programs. It is both one of the largest and longest running programs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has. 70% of the money distributed through the program must go to help low-income and moderate-income residents. But 100% of this money is distributed to states, cities and county governments called entitlement communities. Absolutely none of it is actually granted to an individual or even to a non-profit organization that helps individuals, not by the federal government.
Once funding makes it way from Washington to local municipalities, it is then often regranted through smaller programs by these entitlement communities that initially receive this money. And this is where you will find help on the local level. No entitlement community uses CDBG funding exactly the same way, but it is traditionally used to fund public infrastructure, housing programs, economic development and public services. With most things like this it is helpful to follow the money and figure out where it is going to fund what local programs where you can receive help.
Let’s look at Charlotte as an example. The city receives around $5 million annually through the CDBG. It then uses the money to fund the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. This program provides local grants to those redeveloping and rehabilitating troubled properties in an attempt to stabilize home values. If you are an individual or family in the Charlotte area, you can receive down payment assistance to be used to purchase foreclosed property. A family of four can earn up to $77,000 annually and still be eligible to receive help under this program. This Charlotte program is a great example of what to look for in your local area and the type of assistance available to you through CDBG funding.
Want to find out what might be available in your area? First, visit the HUD website to check what entitlement communities receive funding near you. Click on your state on this interactive map to quickly view contact information for all entitlement communities receiving money in your state. If you see your city or county, call them or send them an email to find out what they fund through CDBG funding. If you only see your state, contact that office to find out what state programs may exist. You can also do a Google search for CDBG and your city and this will usually turn up a local website with information about how this grant is being used there.