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Audit looks favorably on grant usage

Report shows city is spending its money wisely on programs that residents value.

October 23, 2010|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com

After federal housing authorities last year forced Burbank to designate specific personnel to oversee grant funding for social services and other programs, city officials say a recent internal audit shows they are on track to meet goals head on.

In order to continue to receive Community Development Block Grants and other funding, the city must submit an annual evaluation report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The report outlines the steps Burbank has taken to address the primary concerns of Burbank residents, such as new affordable housing, crime awareness, health services and job creation.

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Newly appointed Community Development Director Greg Herrmann said the high marks from an internal audit show the city is on the right path.

"The federal government makes sure that we are spending the money wisely, and we are addressing the housing and social needs of the community," he said.

HUD logs the report but also performs periodic audits of its own on the city.

Last year, the federal agency required Burbank to restructure how it assigns inspectors, forcing the city to dedicate two positions to overseeing Community Development Block Grant projects.

Herrmann does not foresee any problems with this year's report.

The federal grant funds were used last fiscal year to provide community services to more than 2,300 new clients and an estimated 36,000 people on an ongoing basis, according to city reports.

The services included assistance to the homeless, low-income households and senior citizens, while additional administrative funds were used to assist those on the brink with housing services.

In order to receive Community Development Block Grants, Burbank handles its 15 to 25 tenant complaints each year through the Fair Housing Council of the San Fernando Valley.

"Burbank is very proactive on their fair housing programs, and there is strong support in the community and city," said Diana Bruno, executive director of the region's fair housing council. "It is one of the very rare municipalities that are proactive about the issue."

Other programs, such as Burbank Temporary Aid Center and Salvation Army of Burbank, are listed as major recipients in the report, while smaller entities, such as Kids Dental Community Dental Clinic, receive funds to cover a small portion of their operating budgets.

Affordable rental housing assistance is funneled mostly through the Burbank Housing Corporation.

Although he is proud of the work done in the area of affordable housing, Herrmann said a high standard has been set for his department.

"The most difficult thing to do is make sure Burbank's disadvantaged neighborhoods still feel a part of the community," he said. "We're trying to build community relationships to the extent that we can and the extent the money allows us."

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