Housing Shortage? Here’s How to Get Federal Dollars to Transform Office Spaces into Homes in Your Community

Almost 1 in 4 office spaces across the country sit empty. At the same time, communities are growing faster than ever. The combination has led the federal government to release $45 billion for converting unused office spaces into much-needed residential spaces.

This ambitious program includes community development block grants for local governments, presenting a unique opportunity for communities to address housing shortages and revitalize neighborhoods.

However, the work required to secure and manage these funds can seem daunting. But have no fear! You can do the work required to infuse your community with these funds—and we’re here to help.

In this article, we’ll cover the three main areas to think about when it comes to leveraging this opportunity to create more housing in your community, which are:

  • Managing grant application packages
  • Budgeting for grants-funded projects
  • Procuring work funded by grants

Keep reading to see our tips for each one of these key areas.

5 Tips for Submitting a Successful Grant Application Package

The federal grant application process can be intimidating. But federal funds can radically transform your community—which means they’re well worth pursuing.

Here are five tips to help local governments submit strong grant applications, and secure the funds they seek.

1. Set Clear Guidelines

The first step for local governments is to thoroughly understand the grant guidelines. The federal government will provide specific criteria for grant eligibility, project scope, and deadlines in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). Local government leaders must follow these guidelines meticulously.

2. Use Your Resources

Be sure to take advantage of the White House’s guidebook and training workshops for local and state governments, real estate developers, owners, builders, and lenders on how to use federal programs for commercial to residential conversions.

3. Establish a Team

Form a dedicated team within your local government to oversee the grant application process. This team should include experts in housing, community development, finance, and grant writing.

4. Collaborate with Stakeholders

Survey community organizations, housing advocates, and other stakeholders to gather valuable insights and ideas that can strengthen your grant proposal. Working collaboratively can help you identify the most pressing needs in your community.

5. Collect Supporting Data

Gather and present comprehensive data on the current housing situation in your locality. This data should include statistics on homelessness, affordability, and housing demand. Accurate data will substantiate your grant application.

6. Write a Persuasive Proposal

Your grant application package should be well-structured and persuasive. Clearly articulate the need for your project in your community, and how it addresses specific housing challenges (affordability and building zero-emissions, etc). Clearly define the expected outcomes and the potential impact on the community.

3 Tips for Budgeting Your Grant-Funded Projects

If you do secure federal funds—a major milestone on the path toward bringing housing relief to your community—budgeting so they get spent effectively will be your next challenge.

Here are some tips to help in this phase of your work.

1. Build a Transparent Budget

After securing the grant, local governments will need to create a transparent and detailed budget plan. This plan should include itemized costs for property acquisition, construction, renovation, and any other associated expenses. In addition, it should be easily accessible to both internal and external stakeholders.

2. Improve Cost Estimations

Accurate cost estimations are critical. Engage with architects, construction companies, and other experts to ensure that your budget is as realistic as possible. Make sure to use tools to accurately forecast future costs—and help you avoid expensive overruns down the road.

3. Monitor and Report

Set up a system for monitoring and reporting the grant’s financial progress. Transparency in how funds are being used is vital for maintaining trust and accountability within your community and with the federal agencies that provided the grant.

4 Tips for Procurement of Work Funded by Grants

You’ve got the funds, you’ve budgeted for them—now it’s time to get to work.

To do that, you’ll need to establish a sound procurement process for spending your grant money. Here are some tips to help you do that.

1. Competitive and Equal Bidding

Local governments should follow a competitive bidding process when hiring contractors and construction firms. This ensures the work is awarded to the most qualified and cost-effective entities. In addition, remove any barriers to bids for small, diverse, local businesses by streamlining the submission process.

2. Compliance with Regulations

Be sure to adhere to all state and federal regulations concerning procurement. Failure to comply can lead to financial penalties and legal issues. It’s helpful to collect data now on equity, project statuses, and more, so it’s easy to find reporting information down the road when you need it.

3. Regular Inspections and Quality Assurance

Implement a robust inspection and quality assurance program to ensure that any construction and renovation work meets necessary standards. These safeguards help guarantee that the funds are being used effectively.

A Giant Opportunity

The federal government’s initiative to convert unused office spaces into homes through community development block grants presents a tremendous opportunity for local governments.

But the process may seem daunting, with so many steps to consider in the grant application process, the budgeting process, and the procurement process.

Feeling overwhelmed? OpenGov is here to help.

Learn how we can help you successfully transform your communities and address pressing housing needs, ultimately improving the quality of life for your residents. Schedule a demo now.

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Jeff Neukom

Categories: Local Government, Thought Leadership

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