Hope for Affordable Housing on Main Street

Register now for HOPE VI Main Street Grants

NOTE: The FY 2009 application guidance, the Notice of Funding Availability, has been released!. The NOFA and application guidance is available on the HUD HOPE VI Main Street page.  

These historic storefronts occupy a prominent corner in downtown Oskaloosa, Iowa. Partially fire-damaged, they were threatened with demolition before the town received a HOPE VI grant.

It's almost that time again. Within the next two weeks or so, HUD will likely release its application (NOFA) for the FY09 round of the HOPE VI Main Street program. This grant program supports the creation of affordable housing in smaller communities that are already engaged in commercial district revitalization. The pay-off is big: up to $1 million in grant funds. But the application is onerous and the application timeline short, so now is the time to get acquainted or reacquainted with HOPE VI Main Street to see if your city or town qualifies. NOTE: this information is based on past NOFAs and is subject to change pending the release of the FY09 NOFA.

First, a pop quiz:

  • Does your city or town have a population of 50,000 or fewer?
  • Is it served by a public housing authority that has no more than 100 public housing units?
  • Is there an affordable housing project planned or already in the works in your commercial district?

If you answered yes to these three questions, read on.  Even if you're unclear on whether your community should prepare an application, visit www.grants.gov. The HOPE VI Main Street application must be filed electronically and all applicants must first register with grants.gov in order to submit an application online (The registration process itself can take up to two to four weeks).

Other key qualification requirements include:

  • The official applicant must be an official unit of local government. The government does not need to own the subject property, but must be the applicant, and therefore, the grantee. 
  • The affordable housing project must be undertaken as part of an existing Main Street revitalization effort that has both public and private sector support (a criterion that shouldn't pose any difficulty for governments that have a Main Street program in their jurisdiction).
  • The affordable housing project site must pass HUD's Historic Preservation Review (in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act) and HUD's environmental assessment, undertaken after grant notifications are made.
  • Applicants must identify matching funds (either cash or in-kind services) equal to 5 percent of the requested grant amount.

So now that we've waded through the most important technicalities for applying, let's focus on the bigger picture: these funds help make fantastic projects happen.  

The Town of Bastrop, Louisiana, a FY05 grantee, can attest to that. As reported in Main Street News, the application team overcame the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina to assemble its application and was rewarded with a $500,000 grant. The project will rehabilitate the vacant Bastrop High School into approximately 76 independent living apartments for the elderly and classroom space for continuing education classes. After approximately nine years, the project is still in the predevelopment phase, with the greatest challenges being a leaky roof that has caused rapid deterioration of the building and the reluctance of the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to commit to the project. The HOPE VI grant has reimbursed the project's Low Income Housing Tax Credit application fees and its architectural and environmental expenses. Despite the slow pace of development, the project is moving forward and the outlook is optimistic.

Oskaloosa, Iowa, is using its $1 million HOPE VI grant to create eight low-income housing units in three historic commercial buildings.

Oskaloosa, Iowa, was awarded $1 million two years ago for The Trolley Place project which creates eight low-income housing units from three contiguous storefronts on a prominent corner of downtown. Partially fire-damaged, the properties were threatened with demolition. Now the project is approximately two months away from completing its plans and soliciting contractor bids. A contact with the project says the HOPE VI application process was truly taxing but is quick to note that the resulting grant enabled the Oskaloosa Downtown Development group to expand the rehabilitation to include green building components, including geothermal heating and cooling technology.

Intrigued? Go to www.grants.gov to register, bookmark www.hud.gov/mainstreet to view last year's NOFA and check back for important application guidance.

Also review our Frequently Asked Questions document, which details eligibility requirements and aspects of the application process—based on previous NOFAs. And of course, keep an eye on www.mainstreet.org/main-street as we'll keep you updated on the application availability and timeline.