Linda Akles invited Anniston officials into her home off Glen Addie Avenue on Wednesday morning. She showed them the part of her porch ceiling that was falling in, as well as the ceiling lights that no longer worked.
Akles, who is disabled and taking care of her two disabled children, has lived in her home for 20 years.
“When you're on a fixed income, it's hard to get stuff fixed,” she said.
Akles’ home was one of five visited by the mayor, two city councilmen and the interim city manager Wednesday morning. All of the houses could be eligible to have renovations paid for by the federal Community Development Block Grant program.
The questions on each homeowner’s mind: When will they know whether they’ll be selected for renovations, and when work will start?
City leaders were careful in their responses. The application process, which goes through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is long and complicated, they said.
The city also has money for renovations from another, similar program, HOME Investment Partnerships. But houses fixed with HOME money must be completely brought up to building codes. For many eligible houses in Anniston, that could cost more than the houses are worth.
Councilman Ben Little said the red tape is frustrating when there is such a great need in the community.
“My struggle is $1.5 million went through here, and nothing went to home repairs,” Little said of CDBG money for the last four years.
Interim City Manager Cory Salley said the grant money paid for about $200,000 worth of demolition of blighted homes in one year. Councilman David Reddick added that HUD money helped build the Dr. David Satcher Wellness Park as well as cottages on Circle Drive that now provide housing for previously homeless people.
The council on Jan. 23 spent $52,500 to hire a consulting firm for professional management and administrative service for the city’s CDBG money.
But time may be running out. President Donald Trump’s 2018 proposed budget would cut all funding for both the CDGB and HOME Investment programs. Last year, CDBG had a $3 billion budget and HOME Investments put $950 million into communities throughout the country.
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Alabama received more than $40 million from CDBG and $12.6 million for HOME Investments in 2017.
Little said the council hopes to travel to Washington D.C., soon to ask lawmakers to keep the programs funded.
In the meantime, Little said, he hopes city leaders can leverage other government money or perhaps establish a nonprofit to get work started on the more dire needs in the community.