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City of Waco emphasizes affordable housing needs with American Rescue Plan funds

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Posted at 10:51 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 23:51:43-04

WACO, Texas — After considering public input on how to spend some of its American Rescue Plan Act funding, the Waco City Council approved a plan that emphasizes housing-related projects.

The act, which passed in March, was designed to help provide COVID-19 relief to citizens and local governments and provides $34.7 million for the city. The first payment was received by the city in June, and the next payment is expected in June 2022.

The funding was broken up into three buckets. $15 million was set aside for improvements to infrastructure. $2 million is on reserve for changing conditions brought on by the pandemic. The breakdown of the other $17 million was approved at Tuesday's city council meeting after a recommendation from the Office of Management and Budget, based on an online "Balancing Act" survey in September.

Of the $17 million, new affordable housing projects made up the largest portion of the plan, about $4.3 million. Another $5.95 million is allocated for other housing projects like home rehabilitation, down payment assistance, and housing bridge programs.

Waco American Rescue Act funding breakdown
Funding breakdown presented at city council meeting on Oct. 19, 2021.

Leaders from organizations like the Salvation Army and Mission Waco said affordable housing is a growing issue in Waco and that addressing it is imperative.

"Ever since COVID, it's gotten worse because there's a hold on people getting places," said Carlton Willis, associate executive director of Mission Waco. "We now have vouchers that we have not been able to fill."

Mission Waco is excited about the prospect of new affordable housing programs and hopes the city includes community leaders in its decisions about the best way to use the funds.

Major April Taylor of Waco's Salvation Army said the city will have to get creative to solve the complicated issue of housing security.

"Things need to change in the housing industry," Taylor said. "We've got to be able to build something new or build moderate-income housing for those that have moderate income."

Taylor said she appreciates the city reaching out to the community to learn what they wanted to see the funds used for.

The city's Office of Management and Budget said 331 people participated in the "Balancing Act" tool survey and hopes to use similar tools in the future for city budgeting purposes.