Community Development Block Grant Program: A Historical
Celebrating 25 Years of Success
By Nicole Maharaj
The Community Development Block Grant Program was created to 1) benefit low- and moderate income persons; 2) eliminate slum and blight; and 3) meet other urgent local community development needs. It was designed to permit the level of local government closest to the needs of its citizens and community the ability to devise flexible and constructive neighborhood approaches to meet and prevent physical, economic and social deterioration. The program came into existence through the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, when seven categorical programs (which communities competed nationally in specific project categories)-including the Urban Renewal and Model Cities programs were merged into one program - the Community Development Block Grant. CDBG was spearheaded by the efforts of President Richard Nixon, and signed into law by President Gerald Ford. Today, it is one of the largest and most successful federal grant programs to states, cities and counties, and the program over the years has survived several proposed cuts. As you know, the program is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD-HUD). According to documented studies, CDBG has been highly effective in meetings its original intended purpose of primarily targeting the most distressed cities, neighborhoods and individuals, and research concludes that CDBG-funded investments, in certain types of neighborhoods and under the right circumstances, have produced tangible results in neighborhood stabilization and revitalization initiatives. Many CDBG-assisted businesses report that their projects would not have happened at all, or would have happened on a much smaller scale, without the assistance of the program.
The flexibility of the program allows for a vast array of complex issues to be addressed ranging from housing, economic development, social services, infrastructure, property acquisition and clearance, and other activities, which in combination, can help to stabilize or revitalize neighborhoods. The program directly impacts the lives of people by providing funding for libraries, elderly programs, child care and health care centers, after-to-school programs, homeless assistance, drug and crime prevention and counseling programs, improving streets and water and sewer systems. Some 900 entitlement communities receive direct funding by formula, and thousands of smaller communities receive funds through their respective states under the State CDBG program. Most often, CDBG represents 20 percent of the total federal assistance for a typical city over the population of 50,000. In addition, more than 10,000 non-profit groups and other public and private organizations receive grants indirectly from HUD each year through the program.