Community Development

$1.8 million in federal funds available for COVID-19 aid

By Debbie Eller, Director of Community Development

The City of College Station will make about $1.8 million in federal funds available for two grant programs aimed at helping College Station’s low-to-moderate income residents pay their rent and their employers keep them on the payroll.

Sources for the funding are the CARES Act, Community Development Block Grants, and the HOME Investment Partnership Program. Some of the funds are being re-purposed from previously planned programs. 

The City of College Station Community Development Division will process applications for assistance to residents and businesses affected by the outbreak. 

Tenant-Based Rental Assistance

The Tenant-Based Rental Assistance program uses $475,000 in HOME funds to provide rent assistance to qualifying households for up to three months. The households are eligible for up to $1,000 each month, including payment of unpaid rent for May.

Payments will be made directly to the landlord indicated on the lease, which must have started on or before March 1.  After completing an online eligibility application, grant recipients will be selected by a random drawing. If selected, recipients have one week to provide the necessary documentation. 

Applications will be available on cstx.gov, starting at 12:01 a.m. on June 1 and closing at 11:59 p.m. on June 7.

For more information, email us at RentAssistance@cstx.gov.

Economic Assistance Grant Program

The Economic Assistance Grant Program for small businesses opens the second round of applications today with about $500,000 in CDBG funds. The application deadline is noon on Friday, June 5. Up to $40,000 in community development grant funds will be available for small College Station businesses that will retain or create jobs for mostly low-to-moderate income residents.

The amount granted will be determined by the number of full-time equivalent employees who work each week (FTE=total number of hours worked during the week divided by 40). Businesses must provide proof they were impacted financially by COVID-19. They will also need to report for 60 days to demonstrate they meet the job retention or creation requirements.

For more information, email us at EconomicAssistance@cstx.gov.

Additional Assistance

Additional assistance will be provided to local agencies working to meet the needs of College Station residents. Previously, $30,000 in CDBG funds was provided to Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul to assist residents with rent and utility payments.

An additional $500,000 in CDBG Public Service Agency funding will be available to programs that address needs caused by COVID-19, including medical, food, rent, utilities, and other basic needs. A request for proposal will be released on Monday for agencies interested in addressing these coronavirus-caused needs. Specific Information will be released when programs have been selected for funding.

Community Development staff are available to provide technical assistance to residents or businesses interested in applying for aid. If you need help, call us at 979-764-3778. Similar programs are available for Bryan residents. For more information, go to bryantx.gov

We understand the community’s needs are high, and these resources will not be able to help everyone. Residents are encouraged to contact 2-1-1 for information regarding other available assistance.

  


About the Blogger

Community Services Coordinator Debbie Eller is in her 21st year with the City of College Station. She has led the Community Services Department since 2010. A native of Fort Worth, Debbie earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M in 1984.


 

 

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City seeks public input this week on COVID-19 relief

By Raney Whitwell, Community Development Analyst

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of College Station seeks citizen input this week on five potential Substantial Amendments to the city’s 2015-19 Consolidated Plan. The changes would allow the Community Services Department to more quickly and efficiently address local needs. 

The Substantial Amendments adhere to federal regulations related to citizen participation in community planning and development programs, along with applicable waivers through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).

A virtual public hearing will be Thursday at 5 p.m. You can join the meeting online at zoom.us/i/2800371990 or by calling 1-888-475-4499 and entering number 280-037-1990. 

You can mail written comments (postmarked no later than Friday) to City of College Station Community Services, P. O. Box 9960, College Station, TX  77842, or email them to rwhitwell@cstx.gov. You can also call 979-764-3778 and leave a comment.                      

The amendments to the 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan, Citizen Participation Plan, and 2019 Action Plan for federal funds are available for a five-day public review and comment period that ends Friday. Here’s the text for each amendment:

Substantial Amendments

SA No. 1: Revises the Citizen Participation Plan to include the use of virtual public meetings, clarifies the description of public hearings for the Consolidated Plan, and adds a section to address citizen participation during a disaster declaration.

SA No. 2: Revises the 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan to include as a goal statement in the Disaster Response Plan, including policies and procedures to address local impacts of these disasters as allowed by HUD guidance, waivers, and streamlined regulations and the addition of Tenant-Based Rental Assistance as a project.

SA No. 3: Revises the 2019 Action Plan to enable the city to receive and administer $697,507 in Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funding from HUD, including $500,000 of CDBG-CV funds to public service agencies and $197,507 to economic development.

Eligible CDBG activities include assisting low- and moderate-income households with rental and utility assistance for up to three months, food assistance programs, business assistance to retain employees, and support of other COVID-19 response services, such as medical and health-related services. 

Those funds and additional CDBG funding that may be available through the CARES Act will be used for the same purposes of the initial allocations, which were intended to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.                       

SA No. 4: Reprograms $312,479 of FY 2019 CDBG funds from acquisition to economic development.

SA No. 5: Reprograms FY 2019 HOME funds from owner-occupied rehabilitation ($46,575), homebuyer assistance ($301,246), and from new construction ($152,677 ) to tenant-based rental assistance ($475,000) and tenant-based rental assistance security deposits ($25,498) in response to COVID-19 and though HOME waivers.

For more information, email me at rwhitwell@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Community Development Analyst Raney Whitwell is in her fifth year with the city. She’s also served in code enforcement and in the City Secretary’s Office. A native of Bremond, Raney earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Sam Houston State.


 

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Grant funds to help residents with household bills

By David Brower, Community Development Analyst

The City of College Station has selected Catholic Charities of Central Texas and the St. Vincent De Paul Society of B/CS to each receive $15,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to help College Station residents with their rent and utility bills.

The funds are estimated to help more than 140 income-eligible households.

If you need information and referrals to area resources, dial 2-1-1 for free assistance. Trained specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and services are available in more than 90 languages.

 


About the Blogger

David Brower has been a community development analyst for the City of College Station since he graduated from Texas A&M in 2008.


 


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Small business program helps retain 121 local jobs

By Debbie Eller, Director of Community Development

The City of College Station’s Economic Assistance Grant Program distributed $282,802 to 16 small businesses, 188 individuals, and 101 families (households of two or more people).

It also helped businesses retain 121 full-time equivalent positions.

Using CDBG Economic Development funds, the program was intended to help prevent job losses for employees with families in the low-to-moderate household income range. In the long term, the program may also contribute to job creation or enable businesses to reach their pre-disaster employment numbers.

Additional funding will be available in mid-May.

 


About the Blogger

Community Services Coordinator Debbie Eller is in her 21st year with the City of College Station. She has led the Community Services Department since 2010. A native of Fort Worth, Debbie earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M in 1984.


 

 

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Know your COVID-19 rent and mortgage options

By Debbie Eller, Director of Community Services

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused many College Station residents to lose their jobs or have their work hours reduced. For some, paying their rent or making mortgage payments may be a problem.

If the crisis continues for months, late fees and months of back payments could create additional burdens.

However, a delicate balance exists when considering tenant protections. Landlords have expenses that must be paid, and the lack of rent revenue severely affects their ability to stay in business. 

The situation calls for everyone to work together to find mutually beneficial solutions.

If you are unable to pay rent during the existing orders, talk to your landlord to find a reasonable solution. We also encourage you to call 2-1-1 to locate local assistance in addition to programs offered statewide.

Rent and utility assistance programs are available through local non-profit agencies such as The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and St. Vincent de Paul. Still, funds are running low due to the extreme need. The City of College Station is working to allocate additional funding through its Community Development Block Grant to programs that provide rent and utility assistance. 

If you are unable to pay your monthly mortgage, contact your mortgage holder. Options are available for distressed borrowers impacted by COVID-19, including short- and long-term forbearance options, mortgage modifications, and other mortgage payment relief options based on your circumstances.

The Supreme Court of Texas has banned evictions through June 1, and the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has placed a moratorium on evictions for residents of government-assisted housing until July 24. The Federal Housing Administration has also implemented a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages through May. 

Evictions are still allowed for posing an imminent threat of physical harm or engaging in criminal activity.

For more information, go to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs website at  tdhca.state.tx.us/covid19.htm.

 


About the Blogger

Community Services Coordinator Debbie Eller is in her 21st year with the City of College Station. She has led the Community Services Department since 2010. A native of Fort Worth, Debbie earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M in 1984.


 

 

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City creates program to aid local small businesses

By Debbie Eller, Director of Community Development

While the COVID-19 outbreak has arrived with a high human cost, it’s increasingly evident that the economic impacts could be substantial as well. In response, the City of College Station has created an Economic Assistance Grant Program for our small businesses with low-to-moderate income employees.

The city council unanimously approved the program’s guidelines as part of a special Monday afternoon teleconference meeting.

Funded with almost $300,000 in CDBG Economic Development Funds, the program could help prevent job losses for employees with families in the low-to-moderate household income range, such as a family of four that earns under $54,800 a year. In the long term, the program could also contribute to job creation or enable businesses to reach their pre-disaster employment numbers.

Grants of up to $40,000 will be available, based on the number of employees. Businesses need to provide information regarding their business before and after implementation of the COVID-19 declarations, including financial documents, employee information, and their willingness to comply with local, state, and federal requirements. 

To apply, click the link below, register as a vendor, and download the required documents. After you log-in, click on Current Bids and the Eco Assistance Grant link, where you can upload the documents.

New applications are reviewed and funds awarded each week, and each entity may receive only one grant. We expect the requests to outpace the available funds.

Funds will be disbursed in four installments, with the first distributed after the agreement is executed. Subsequent payments will be made following the submission of payroll documentation showing that the funding has helped retained job funding. 

For more information, email me at deller@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Community Services Coordinator Debbie Eller is in her 21st year with the City of College Station. She has led the Community Services Department since 2010. A native of Fort Worth, Debbie earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M in 1984.


 

 

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City seeks public input on uses for federal grants

By Raney Whitwell, Community Development Analyst

Each year, the City of College Station receives about $1.5 million in federal grants that benefit low- and moderate-income residents through nonprofit programs, economic development, and improved housing and infrastructure.

We need your help in determining how to use these funds in the best way to address our local needs. You can either take a short survey or attend a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10, at the Lincoln Recreation Center.

The public hearing will include presentations about fair housing and the requirements for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership Grant (HOME).

Public input will play an essential role in the 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan we’ll submit in August to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Consolidated Plan is a comprehensive planning and evaluation tool that guides priorities, goals, and strategies for the next five years.

You can also submit your feedback to the Community Services Department at 979-764-3778 or by emailing Community Services Director Debbie Eller at deller@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Community Development Analyst Raney Whitwell is in her fifth year with the city. She’s also served in code enforcement and in the City Secretary’s Office. A native of Bremond, Raney earned a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Sam Houston State.


 

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Game day parking doesn’t have to be a hassle

By Julie Caler, Code Enforcement Supervisor

For football fans, following their favorite team to Kyle Field can be tricky. With tens of thousands of fans descending on a relatively small area, finding a place to park their vehicles can be daunting.

Visitors understandably want to park as close to the stadium as possible, and that creates challenges for our guests and residents, especially in the Southside neighborhood. Making sure everyone abides by our city parking ordinances is a significant test for city staff, too.

Our parking ordinances are designed to make our streets and neighborhoods safe. Emergency vehicles need to be able to respond if required, and cars must be kept off yards to prevent fires, broken meters, broken gas lines, and other problems. The College Station Police Department, Code Enforcement, and the Northgate District staff work together to ensure a safe environment for you on game day.

Street Parking

Many of the streets in the Southside area were developed years ago and are exceptionally narrow. Police officers will be looking for vehicles parked illegally, including those facing traffic, blocking fire hydrants, parking too close to stop signs, blocking intersections, and parking in no-parking zones, to name a few. You also can’t directly block a driveway, but that doesn’t mean you can’t park across the street.

Some of these are violations of state law, and a few are towable offenses. If you are parked illegally in certain areas, your vehicle will likely be towed. If you discover your vehicle has been towed, call the Police Department’s non-emergency number at 979-764-3600.

Yard Parking

Code Enforcement Staff will be actively looking for vehicles parking in yards. We discourage residents from illegally selling parking spots on their property. If we find a vehicle parked in the yard, we issue a warning to the resident in person and with a letter. If it’s a rental property, we also inform the property owner and management company.

If the violation happens again on another game day, we may issue a citation or court summons for the property owner and resident.  If you have any questions about this or any other city ordinance, call Code Enforcement at 979-764-6363.

Northgate Parking

The Northgate District provides safe and affordable parking options, including the Northgate Parking Garage, which is just a short walk to Kyle Field. The special game day rate is $25. Parking in the garage means you don’t have to worry about parking in the wrong place or being towed.

We also have limited parking available on certain Northgate streets and in the surface parking lot. The game day rate for both options is $3.50 an hour and is applicable from 6 a.m. Saturday until 3 a.m. Sunday.

For more information about the Northgate Parking Garage, including the availability of parking spaces, call 979-764-6313.

 

For general questions about parking or Code Enforcement, please feel free to contact me at 979-764-6363 or jcaler@cstx.gov.

Game Day Information

Here are some maps and other information that we hope will move you around town as quickly as possible on Aggie game days:

Gig ‘em, Aggies!

 


0000018EPAbout the Blogger

Code Enforcement Supervisor Julie Caler has been with the City of College Station for almost two decades.


 

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SeeClickFix remains a valuable reporting tool

By Julie Caler, Code Enforcement Supervisor

See. Click. Fix.

It’s as easy as that for citizens to report code enforcement, public works, and other non-emergency issues to the City of College Station.

The online application allows anyone with internet access to report and easily track updates to their concerns.  It empowers you and your local government to take care of and improve our neighborhoods in a tangible and meaningful way.

SeeClickFix can be accessed through desktop computers, smartphones or other mobile devices. Better yet, it’s simple to use and creates a higher level of accountability through timely communication between you and your city.

How do you use it?

The most popular way to use SeeClickFix is with a smartphone or tablet. Mobile devices make it easy to take and submit photos, which help city staff quickly identify problems and determine how to resolve them as efficiently as possible. Go to your device’s app store for a free download. The system can also be accessed through the city’s mobile-friendly website.

Pinning or entering an exact address will help staff locate and resolve the issue in a timelier manner.  Remember, pictures say a thousand words so whenever possible, please provide a picture of your concern.  If you have specific questions, call Code Enforcement at 979-764-6363, and we will be happy to answer your questions.

In addition, problems phoned into Code Enforcement are entered into SeeClickFix, which allows us to count the numbers and types of reported cases accurately.

How does it work?

SeeClickFix incorporates code enforcement, public works, parks and even outside agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation to address the issues you report. While code enforcement is the clearinghouse for SeeClickFix, we ensure the proper agency addresses your specific issue.

Sometimes we receive updates, and sometimes we don’t.  But we can always provide you with direct contact information if you have specific questions for that agency.

SeeClickFix is not a social media site but an online reporting work order system. That means posting personal information or vulgar or inappropriate language will cause your post to be flagged and removed.

Who responds and how?

The type of concern reported determines who responds. While most issues are directed to code enforcement, not all issues are code related. Most potholes, street lights/sign issues are sent to either Public Works or TxDOT, depending on the location. Issues concerning parks are sent to the Parks and Recreation Department and so on.

Each agency has procedures for responding to concerns on SCF, and while we may get updates from some agencies, we don’t get updates from them all.

Code Enforcement will respond to issues that are possible code violations. An officer will investigate, and if a violation is found, the officer will proceed with a code case in our tracking system.

Some cases take longer than others to resolve, such as junk vehicles or weeds and grass, but a typical case is resolved within 10 days.

SeeClickFix isn’t 911

SeeClickFix isn’t monitored 24/7, so don’t report public safety concerns such as suspicious persons, robberies, threats to life, etc. on. Always call 911 when a real emergency exists.

SeeClickFix has proven to be a valuable tool for our citizens and has helped the city become more efficient and effective at resolving everyday issues. We hope you will continue to use it when you see something that needs to be addressed.

Just go to seeclickfix.com/college-station to report an issue.

Keep seeing and clicking, and we’ll keep fixing!

 


0000018EPAbout the Blogger

Code Enforcement Supervisor Julie Caler has been with the City of College Station for almost two decades.


 

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Reporting issues to city as easy as See-Click-Fix

pothole1

By Julie Caler, Code Enforcement Supervisor

“There’s an app for that!”

Just because that statement has become trite doesn’t mean it’s not accurate. Most of us are constantly looking for the next great app to enrich and add convenience to our lives.

SeeClickFix is not a new app, but it has proven to be one of the most useful. And it’s free.

SCFThe City of College Station has used the app since 2011 as a handy way for citizens to report potholes, broken street lights or code enforcement issues. The result has been more than 4,700 resolved problems.

SeeClickFix allows anyone with internet access to report on issues that concern them. You can access the program with desktop computers or mobile devices, including smartphones. It’s easy to use, and it creates a higher level of accountability for city staff through better communication.

When you enter an issue into the system, we are notified by email and route the message to the appropriate department or division. We even let outside agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation know if the reported issue is within their areas of responsibility.

When an update is available, we post it on SeeClickFix and you receive a notification.

The most frequent reported issues are overgrown weeds and grass, followed by large accumulations of trash, overflowing trash containers, potholes, and broken street lights or signs. Other common issues include malfunctioning water fountains in parks, property maintenance issues, junk motor vehicles, and parking in yards.

How to sign up

Create a user name and password, log on, and you’re ready to report a problem and make your community a better place. When you submit an issue, provide as much information as you can, such as an address or the identification number on a street light pole. You can even include a photo.

If you don’t have access to a computer or mobile device, you can report issues by calling 979-764-6363. We’ll enter the problem into SeeClickFix for you so we can accurately count the numbers and types of reported cases.

SeeClickFix has proven to be a valuable tool for our citizens and has helped make the city more efficient and effective at resolving everyday issues. For more information, contact Code Enforcement at 979-764-6363 or codeenforcement@cstx.gov.


0000018EPAbout the Author

Code Enforcement Supervisor Julie Caler has been with the City of College Station for 17 years.


 

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Community grants have made College Station better

By David Brower, Community Development Analyst

Since 2011, College Station has received about $7.2 million in federal community development grants. As part of National Community Development Week, it’s informative and enlightening to look at the positive impact these funds have had on our city.

Tarrow Park 3 5.27.2011Our Community Services Department coordinates with other city departments, social service agencies, businesses and other governmental entities to ensure the grants are used in the most effective way to address our most pressing needs.

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Podcast: The guy who keeps Northgate clean and friendly

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Former tech geek Gus Roman has spent much of his professional career trying to improve user experiences for others. Now, he’s applying that focus to College Station’s Northgate Entertainment District and on the city’s code enforcement strategies.

Gus describes those two worlds in refreshing ways in this podcast. (more…)


Free parking Monday and Tuesday in Northgate lot

parking1

By Gus Roman, Community Services Business Manager

We all love Northgate, right? And we love free parking, too.

You can get the best of both worlds all day Monday and Tuesday in the Northgate surface parking lot while we install new pay stations.

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3 common misconceptions about code enforcement

By Julie Caler, Code Enforcement Supervisor

When it comes to code enforcement, misconceptions are bountiful. It’s time to take a closer look at some of the myths that surround our services and to clarify the role of the city’s Code Enforcement Division.

First, let’s attempt to separate myth from reality by addressing three of the most common misconceptions:

Myth No. 1: Code Enforcement tickets violations immediately.

code3Reality: Our goal is to educate the resident, property owner and any person associated with a property. The process begins with a door tag, or in the case of trash can being left out after collection day, a can tag.

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Payday, auto title lending ordinance takes effect Wednesday

untitledEmergency cash is needed for a variety of reasons — cars break down, children get sick or injured, and sometimes jobs are lost.

In 2013, 4,557 people in the College Station-Bryan Metropolitan Statistical Area visited a Credit Access Business (CAB) and used payday and auto title loans to meet their need for emergency funds. They borrowed $6 million and paid $4 million in fees, according to the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner.

Payday loans are small cash advances with two-week terms — with interest and fees applied. Payday and auto title loans offered by CABs are made by non-affiliated third-party lenders with the CAB acting as a loan broker guaranteeing the loan. Profit is derived from fees charged for their services. In 2013, the average amount Texans borrowed per loan was $463.

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Nichols: Managing the impact of neighborhood rental properties

For-rent-sign[1]The City of College Station is experiencing almost unprecedented growth stemming largely from the expansion of enrollment and research and development budgets at our institutions of higher education. These changes bring many opportunities for business development, employment, new retail experiences, and expanded regional and national recognition.

They also bring many challenges. We live with, and try to adapt to, the pressures of increasing traffic congestion and the transition of many commercial and residential neighborhoods.

The rapid expansion of rental properties into neighborhoods zoned for “single families” and long thought to be designed mainly for traditional owner-occupancy is the focus of intense current discussion by many residents and rental property owners. In College Station, the definition of permitted occupancy in what are designated as “Suburban Residential” and related similar zones is “no more than four unrelated individuals.”

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City rehab programs help make older homes safer, livable

A retiree on a fixed income, who cares for her elderly disabled mother, lives in an older home built in 1950. Vibrant colors and the smell of fragrant roses fill the lush yard — evidence of years of hard work. However, the signs of structural decay and failure inside the tidy home are evident. A deteriorating foundation has caused the floors to be uneven, creating unsafe conditions for the elderly resident.

What can this family do to fix these problems and make their home a safe place to live?  Are repairs even possible? Is any help available?

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Avoid Costly Mistakes with CS’s Homebuyer Education Course

After months of searching, John and Jane Smith found their dream house, quickly made an offer and signed a contract. Then, after spending considerable cash on inspections and buying an option period, the Smiths realized that for their dream to become a reality, they needed a loan. Unfortunately, their potential lenders told them the monthly payments would be beyond their income. The lenders all repeated the same thing:

“We’ll approve you for a loan but not one big enough to buy the house you have under contract.”

The Smiths’ hearts sank. They spent $550 on an option period and inspections — for nothing. Although John and Jane are fictional, the scenario is familiar to countless people every day. Fortunately, those mistakes can be avoided.

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Why Does Affordable Housing Matter in College Station?

The Center for Housing Policy recently released an eye-opening report indicating that about 10 million working households in the United States spent more than half their income on housing. This “severe housing cost burden” affects nearly 25 percent of all rental households. Although Texas enjoys relatively low housing costs, its working households experienced one of the nation’s most significant increases in this cost burden from 2008 to 2009.

In College Station, only about 35 percent of total households are estimated to be owner-occupied, which is significantly less than the 68 percent across the state. Obviously, this is due in part to our large student population, but it’s also related to local incomes and the availability of affordable housing.  Nearly 15 percent of area families live below the poverty line, and for these families, even houses that sell for $100,000 or less — which represent only 6 percent of sales in recent years — can be unattainable.

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