Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Facades eligible for city grants

Covington panel suggests sites

By Travis Gettys
Enquirer contributor

COVINGTON - Some property owners could receive grants to improve their exteriors as part of a neighborhood fa┴ade program.

The Covington Neighborhood Collaborative, made up of nine city neighborhoods, voted on a list of target areas, and the city commission will vote at its May 25 meeting to decide which one will receive the $40,000 grant.

"The really exciting thing about this program is that it can be used for both residential and commercial (properties)," said Rachel Hastings, director of neighborhood and housing initiatives for the Covington Community Center.

Property owners who are eligible will receive a 100 percent matching grant on up to $4,000 in improvements, Hastings said.

The federal government will provide funds in the form of Community Development Block Grants, so homeowners must fall at or below 80 percent of the area median income, which is $51,450, Hastings said.

The list of candidates was chosen based on several criteria, Hastings said, with particular emphasis on those neighborhoods that are highly visible.

Using a weighted system, the collaborative group voted on a list of seven neighborhoods to recommend for the pilot program, which could be extended based on its initial success.

Two neighborhoods tied for the most votes, with Russell Street between 12th and 15th streets and Scott Boulevard between 12th and 15th streets each receiving the group's endorsement, based on community volunteer work and active rehabilitation projects in progress.

"There are lots of good ones," said Aaron Wolfe-Bertling, city housing development director. "There's lots of work going on."

Other neighborhoods that could be chosen are the Ritte's Corner area of Latonia, Pike Street between Fifth Street and the railroad tracks, Greenup Street between 12th and 15th streets, Holman Avenue between Pike and 12th streets and Decoursey Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets.

City commissioners will likely vote on a second choice, as well, so that if residents of the neighborhood that is chosen do not show much interest in the program, the city can move on quickly.

City housing staff will offer advice on building improvements, and the city will set up accounts at local businesses so property owners can make improvements in smaller increments, rather than in one lump sum.

"A lot of the participants will be lower-income, so spending $4,000 out-of-pocket can be difficult," Hastings said. The program is similar to one in the 1970s, said City Commissioner Bernie Moorman, who held the same post from 1974-1979.

"That worked very well," he said.

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