Youngstown and HUD’s Shrinking Cities Lapse

Why can’t Youngstown redevelop its downtrodden neighborhoods the same way Philadelphia has?

Willy Staley asks Youngstown Community Organizer Phil Kidd this question in the latest issue of Next American City.

Phil Kidd, Youngstown advocate. Photo by Sean Posey.

Phil Kidd, Youngstown advocate. Photo by Sean Posey.

“The most straightforward, and obvious problem for cities in decline is the way that the Department of Housing and Urban Development doles out its funds,” Staley writes. “The grants are not competitive; cities must apply, but the size of the grant is determined by a formula.”

The formula is weighted by population, so as Youngstown bleeds population, its HUD money shrinks as well. Meanwhile, the destruction caused by vacancy and abandonment cries out for attention.

“CDBG is our lifeline,” says Kidd, “and we’re experiencing population decline and trying to plan accordingly for that but it requires a lot of planning and land use strategies, demolition…all these things that are not proportional to population.”

Worse, in cash-strapped cities like Youngstown, Community Development Block Grant dollars are often tapped to fill holes in the general fund budget.

The most recent community development money infusion, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (a program of the economic stimulus package), capped the allowable portion spent on demolitions at 10 percent. This presents another obstacle in a city where vacant houses are driving neighborhood abandonment. Kidd says while local community development officials have been struggling to stabilize one neighborhood, another has been hemorrhaging population at a rate of 435 percent.

As a solution, Youngstown’s Congressman Tim Ryan has been championing the Community Regeneration, Sustainability and Innovation Act, which would make federal grants available to communities with innovative solutions for the problem of widespread vacancy and abandonment.

Read the articles for yourself:

Part one

Part two



Filed under Headline, Politics, Real Estate, The Big Urban Photography Project, The Housing Crisis, Urban Planning

2 responses to “Youngstown and HUD’s Shrinking Cities Lapse

  1. Midwest CPA

    I live in St Louis, MO. St Louis gets lots of money from Community Development Block Grants and I truly wish Congress would change the way these funds are doled out. St Louis spends 30 out of every 31 CDBG dollars either downtown or south of downtown, virtually ignoring the northern half of the city.

    This isn’t because the northern half doesn’t need these funds, it’s because the city leadership has written off the norther half of their own city. The northern half is also overwhelmingly black and poor. Downtown and the southern half are overwhelmingly white and middle class.

    The norther part of St Louis is what allows this city to receive as much CDBG money as it does. Without the grinding poverty in N. St Louis the flow of CDBG money would slow to a trickle. Yet where is the money spent? Not in the north where it’s needed most. It’s spent in the south.

    The Feds need to drastically change the requirements on this money. It should have to be spent where the poverty is the greatest. It should by-pass the corrupt city government altogether in places like St Louis and go directly to neighborhood organizations, non-profit micro-lenders, and adult education providers. Instead what happens is that cities like St Louis can pimp the poor to suck in federal money for the non-poor. As long as you pay city governments to have large populations of poor people, they will continue to have large populations of poor people and spend the money elsewhere.

  2. Here’s my case in point:

    “St. Dominic’s Church Pastor Gregory Maturi met briefly Monday with both Ted Strickland and local State Sen. Joe Schiavoni.

    The pastor learned the governor was attending a rally at Youngstown State University and went there to seek him out, asking for help from Columbus in getting rid of the blight that plagues the city and gives criminals places to hide.

    “They’re irreparable, and they need to be torn down, and they don’t need to be torn down a year from now or six months from now,” he said. “They need to be torn down right away because they are a large part of a large source of crime in our neighborhood.”

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