After a unanimous vote on July 2, the Town of Marana will move forward in pursuing grant money from the Arizona Department of Housing Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to be used to help residents living in Honea Heights.
The primary goal of the grant application is to convert residencies in the neighborhood from septic to sewage; a project that initially began in 2004 but was halted after funding was exhausted.
A qualified home, as determined by council, is one that is both habitable and occupied.
Grant money will apply only to income-qualified homeowners.
The issue has become a growing concern as an increasing number of residents of Honea Heights, a low-to-middle income neighborhood, are beginning to experience failing septic systems and require immediate conversion to sewage.
In a June 18 meeting, the council voted unanimously to use town funds to pay for the emergency hookup of sewage for residents who are experiencing such issues. However, due to the high average cost of the conversion – about $12,000 per home, with 96 homes still unconverted - the town is hoping grant money will help lift the financial burden.
The town has invested about $4 million in conversions and other infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood since the project was halted almost 10 years ago.
Additionally, Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said $75,000 has been put aside for at least the next two years to fund failing systems.
While grant money could cover a significant amount of the costs, there is also a chance the opposite could occur.
“We would like to think we have the star application and we will get funding, but we may get nothing,” said T VanHook, community development director.
In that case, Van Hook say the town will continue pursuing funding through other means, such as it has by submitting an additional application with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which offers similar grants for neighborhoods in need of infrastructure improvement.
“We’ll keep plugging away at it as much as we can,” said VanHook.
That application was filed in January 2012. The application with HUD will not be submitted until September, as the town is still in the process of taking the proper steps required in the CDBG Application Handbook before it can submit.
Wherever the money comes from, VanHook says it will primarily be used toward connecting Honea Heights homes to sewage, though she adds there are other areas of infrastructure improvement it could be applied toward.
Under the Cranston-Gonzales National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, Honea Heights qualifies as a colonias community, meaning it is eligible for set-aside grant funding because it meets the following criteria:
• Is in the state of Arizona, California, New Mexico or Texas; and
• Is in the U.S. – Mexico border region (i.e., within 150 miles of the U.S. – Mexico border, but excluding any standard metropolitan statistical area that has a population exceeding one million. Most of these communities are in unincorporated areas in counties’ jurisdictions; and
• Is determined to be a colonia on the basis of objective criteria, including lack of potable water supply, lack of adequate sewage systems and lack of decent, safe and sanitary housing; and
• Was in existence as a colonia before the date of enactment of the National Affordable Housing Act (i.e., November 28, 1990).
On April 19, the Arizona Department of Housing released a bulletin providing a notice of funding availability for CDBG Colonias Set Aside Competitive Funding.
According to the notice, ADOH expects to allocate approximately $1.7 million in CDBG program combined funds to the state’s colonias projects.
The funds will be distributed in one competitive funding round in which applications are scored, with the highest scoring applications receiving awards until available funds are exhausted.
All applicants will be notified if funding is to be received within 60 days of the application deadline.
The application submission deadline is Sept. 16 at 4 p.m.