Local officials are worried ‘critical’ community development grant will soon be eliminated

A new affordable housing complex on La Crosse’s northside will soon be a place homeless veterans can call home.

But just as it’s getting off the ground, the grant that helped to start the project is at risk of being eliminated.

Every year the city gets about a million dollars from the federal government called the Community Development Block Grant.

But under President Trump’s 2020 budget proposal the grant is on the chopping block and some city officials say that’s a big problem.

Caroline Gregerson, the community development administrator for the city of La Crosse said, “It would be devastating for the city of La Crosse if this program was cut.”

Gregerson can’t imagine the grant being eliminated.

“We do low interest loans to homeowners. We help small business owners start marketing their business and start a new business. We support organizations like coulee cap and WAFER,” Gregerson said.

Recently a large portion of the grant was used to help build this 50 unit affordable housing complex on Kane Street.

“A large need that we’ve identified is the need for quality and affordable rental housing in La Crosse.

We’re seeing rising prices in rental housing,” Gregerson said.

The complex, Garden Terrace Apartments, will house 15 homeless veterans.

“Veterans will not only receive subsidized housing to help them be permanently housed. They’re also going to receive case management services from organizations like Coulee Cap and the Veterans Administration,” Gregerson said.

The city said housing is the first step to help homeless veterans get back on their feet.

“The first step for anybody is shelter, and then once they have a permanent address and a safe roof over their heads they can start addressing other needs to rebuild their lives, like employment, or disability benefits or whatever they might need,” Gregerson said.

The city is hoping to build more affordable housing in the future, but says it will be hard without the Community Development Block Grant.

We’re working really hard with people like Ron Kind and the Senate to restore the funding and the final congressional budget and we’re hoping that our 2020 budget gets restored,” Gregerson said.

Congressman Ron Kind said, “This is a project that to many of my colleagues view as an area that should just be eliminated. I’m going to continue to fight for the CBDG program and make sure that receives adequate funding because we’ve seen many of these successful projects at home here.”

The city said if the grant doesn’t continue taxes may increase or affordable housing will likely suffer

“It’s just a critical lifeline for cities. No one wants our taxes to go up anymore, but at the same time we need to invest in the future and housing for the future,” Gregerson said.

Gregerson said a shortage of affordable housing is likely keeping would-be residents away.

“The number one decision someone’s making when deciding to live in a community is, ‘Can I purchase housing that meets my budget'” Gregerson said.

The city is continuing to look for new a project hoping the Community Development Block Grant continues.

To educate to the public about the grant the city is throwing a number of free events this week including a picnic and walking tours.

To find all of the events go to cityoflacrosse.org/cdbgweek.

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