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Richer neighborhoods to qualify for grants

(Published March 22, 1999)

Next year, D.C. officials will be able to hand out more than $47 million in federal grants for community development projects located in neighborhoods previously considered too affluent for such assistance.

Currently, federal guidelines require that Community Development Block Grant funds be used only in areas where the median income for a family of four is about $33,000. But the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development recently decided to accept a congressional exemption from those requirements, moving the median income limit up to $63,100.

The exemption will cover about $47 million the agency expects to receive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for fiscal 2000. The District is one of 10 U.S. cities that qualify for the exemption.

Advocates for low-income residents say this change in the rules means more development money will go to neighborhoods that donít really need it, and that the poorest families will be left behind.

"Why are we applying to spend money helping more affluent people when there are so many low-income people who need help?" said Ed Gramlich, of the Center for Community Change, a nonprofit civil rights and labor organization.

D.C. officials counter that raising the income limits will help the District attract and maintain a middle class.

"It means more neighborhoods are eligible to get the money," said Marc Weiss, a senior adviser at DHCD.