Port Orange will receive a $404,640 U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant as it has been designated an entitlement community.

That might sound surprising as Port Orange is considered slightly more affluent than many of Volusia County’s towns. However, this is not the first time the city has received HUD funds. In fact, it dates back to 2006.

Becoming an entitlement community is the first step in receiving the grant, known as the Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Program (CDBG). That consideration is not based on affluence, rather, it is based on population and metropolitan area delineations provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget, respectively.

In fact, poverty, not affluence, is one of the criteria in HUD’s formula that determined the grant money Port Orange received. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a 14.88% poverty level. By comparison, Volusia County’s poverty level is 14.25%. Other considerations in the HUD formula are age of housing, housing overcrowding, population and lag in population growth in relationship to other metropolitan areas.

Although Port Orange does not manage any public housing, it does have four or five low-income housing apartment complexes depending on what source is referenced. However, the CDBG is not specifically for communities of poverty or low-income. It can also be used for moderate-income housing and numerous other projects that help improve quality of life issues. The federal government wants to see these funds be used for, “decent housing…a suitable living…expanding economic opportunities,” according to hud.gov.

When asked what the public should know about how the city will use the $404,640 grant money, City Manager Wayne Clark said, “We are trying to improve their community (thus) improve their quality of life.”

Federal guidelines provide wide discretion on how Port Orange sees fit to use the money. The list of possibilities include construction of or improvements in public facilities, conversion of school buildings for eligible purposes, such as residential, real property acquisition or demolition, rehabilitation of residential or non-residential structures, and relocation.

Port Orange reached out to citizens for input on how the grant money should be allocated. A survey was posted on the city's website, distributed on social media and made available in hard copy at city hall on infrastructure, housing, after school programs, childcare, education assistance, wellness, homelessness, crime prevention, domestic violence, public transportation and economic development. The survey deadline was Oct. 8.

The city must submit two plans. One plan is the Five-Year Consolidated Plan and the other is the Annual Action Plan. In the former the city details its strategic objectives while the latter explains how Port Orange will fund those objectives for the coming year.

In prior years, the city has used the money for a sidewalk project in the Port Orange Elementary School area, structural improvements to the Port Orange Adult Center, converting septic tanks to sewers, upgrading streets and improving stormwater drainage. Money also has been allocated to care for the homeless, job creation and job training. The current grant is for the fiscal year that began Oct 1.

For more information, visit port-orange.org/341/cdbg-documents for Port Orange’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan and Annual Action Plan.

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