Editorial Roundup: Program helps towns stay viable
Published 10:10 pm Thursday, September 13, 2018
The Small Cities Development Program focuses on helping those with low incomes fix up and stay in their homes, among other projects important to our rural towns.
As rural populations drop and the trend is predicted to continue, giving struggling cities extra help is key to keeping them afloat.
A federal block grant program is part of the equation to getting those shrinking towns extra financial support to tackle projects that provide rural residents a better quality of life.
This summer 35 grants totaling more than $19 million for rehabilitation and infrastructure projects were awarded in Greater Minnesota. In our region, Winnebago received $869,100 for owner-occupied housing rehabilitation and public facility improvements, and St. James got $663,320 for owner-occupied housing rehabilitation, rental housing rehabilitation and commercial building rehabilitation.
The Small Cities Development Program is part of the Community Development Block Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is funded by Congress. To be eligible for Small Cities funding, a project must meet one of three objectives: benefit people of low and moderate incomes, eliminate slum and blighted conditions, or eliminate an urgent threat to public health or safety. Helping achieve of any of those goals is a sound investment.
Much of the money goes toward housing programs or other public infrastructure. If the towns can firm up their housing situation, they have a better chance of attracting businesses that will stay and keep rural areas viable. And if the water tower freezes up every winter and everyone has to keep their taps open, that situation is not going to be an attractive reason to settle there — or to stay.
Although young people may move away to bigger cities, in many cases the elderly are remaining in these towns. Older residents, however, often can’t afford to keep up the properties, making government-backed rehabilitation programs key to housing stability.
Once properties are rundown or abandoned, it’s difficult to get them back or to draw new residents when buildings are dilapidated.
The grant program is welcome support for our rural communities that fulfill an important role in the culture and economy of Minnesota.
— Mankato Free Press, Sept. 8