Thursday, March 12, 2009

Republican Administration Cuts Low-Income Housing Funds

My comments (more or less) to the CDBG hearing 3/12 . . .

The West Lafayette City Administration cut its 2009 -10 allocation of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funds to New Chauncey Housing Incorporated from $110,000 last year to $50,000. These funds are the only monies that can used to repair the homes of low and moderate income people, particularly the elderly, or to acquire and rehab properties, (for example, a home recently purchased on Salisbury St. near the Happy Hollow School) outside of the HUD target area served by New Chauncey Housing.

Let me make five points:

1) The City decided to allocate $15,000 to beautify “Gumball Alley” (sic) on State St. in the Chauncey Village area. That’s fine. Beautifying an alley may be an oxymoron, but it’s a good idea. Unfortunately, the administration (The funds are allocated at the Mayor’s discretion after consultation with an advisory board.) has decided to do that with funds that could have been used to fix your grandmother’s roof.

2) I understand that city bureaucracies are strengthened when funds are placed under the control of a particular city office. So funding the Energy Assistance Program ($15,000) through the Development Office makes some sense as a political decision. New Chauncey Housing, however, already buys furnaces and windows for low-income persons. It does so much more cheaply than the city. NCHI’s employees receive no benefits. Generally, outsourcing to cheaper sub-contractors for social services has been the goal of the Republican Governor. Republicans take note.

3) This administration has remarked that it would like to see New Chauncey Housing work outside of the HUD target zone. This is obviously not possible at this funding level.

4) Perhaps the administration presumes that New Chauncey Housing would be both able and willing to spend “HOME” Funds outside of the New Chauncey Neighborhood. (HOME funds represent the largest Federal block grant for state and local governments. Its purpose is to create affordable housing for low-income families and individuals. They are distributed to CHODOS (Community HOusing Development OrganizationS). CHODOS are glued to specific maps.) Many restrictions accompany HOME monies. They are administered NOT by the City of West Lafayette but by a jurisdictional consortium led by the City of Lafayette. To spend these funds outside of the New Chauncey Neighborhood might violate both the regulations governing the funds and the corporate charter of New Chauncey Housing Inc.

5) If it were possible to spend HOME funds outside of our neighborhood, it would make more sense for the NCHI Board to spend those funds in Lafayette. Housing is cheaper there. Given current funding patterns, the most important man in the life of New Chauncey Housing is not John Dennis, but Tony Roswarski. The most important woman in their life is not Judy Rhodes, but Aimee Jacobsen.

It might be argued that New Chauncey’s cash balance argues against such financial aid. The current state of the housing and lending markets aside, I would be happy to use that argument in any discussion of city finances. Using a cash balance accounting, the city shows a surplus of between one-half and three-quarters of a million dollars. Time for a tax cut. No need to revisit the excessive levy tax.

The city is moving away from a public/non-profit partnership in low-income housing that was 12 years in the making. This Republican administration is cutting low-income housing funds.

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