I am a representative on the Housing and Community Development Advisory Committee (HCDAC) for Santa Clara County (Office of Affordable Housing). Each year the HCDAC evaluates projects that are eligible to receive Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME funds, reviews County staff’s funding allocation recommendations, and then makes its own funding allocation recommendations to the County Supervisors. Last night the HCDAC met to discuss the projects and vote on our funding recommendations.
There are a variety of methods we could use to determine how to allocate the limited resources, including mathematical models and formulas, general funding rules or guidelines, and bargaining. At the meeting, we reviewed the County staff’s funding recommendations and discussed opportunities to fund projects that had not been recommended for funding. We did not change the County staff’s recommendations and shift money from funded projects to unfunded projects. Instead, we changed the recommended contingency plan so that, if the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s final grant allocations are greater than estimated, the additional funds will be allocated in a specific way to the projects we specified. The process was essentially bargaining, while staying within a few general funding rules and guidelines.
The HCDAC could have used formal decision analysis techniques to aid our decision making process. For example, the County’s Consolidated Plan specifies four unranked goals or priorities for the funding allocations. We could have discussed these goals to determine whether additional goals, like equity of geographical distribution, should be added to the list and how individual committee members would weight or order the goals in importance. Doing so would clarify the committee’s values and priorities with respect to affordable housing projects and services in the County.
Furthermore, each member of the HCDAC receives a packet of information about the projects; however, we do not work together to organize the information in a systematic way with respect to the goals and priorities listed in the Consolidated Plan. By organizing the information in this way, we would be able to quickly and easily see how well each project satisfies the goals and priorities listed in the Consolidated Plan and how the projects compare to one another with respect to these criteria. Using these formal decision analysis techniques would improve the HCDAC’s decision making process and recommendations because they would help to clarify the group’s values, structure the project scoring methodology, and facilitate comparisons and trade-offs among projects.