HUD stands by decision

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 19, 2004

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is standing by its decision to pull $500,000 in 2005 grant monies from the Western Tidewater HOME Consortium (WTHC).

In October, the federal agency notified Suffolk, which heads the four-locality consortium that includes Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, that it would be withdrawing future funding due to the consortium’s poor performance. Suffolk was also cited for its lack of

&uot;administrative capability&uot; to oversee the program.

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As lead agency, Suffolk is responsible for distributing the federal money and annually monitoring how each community uses it. HOME funds are earmarked for maintaining and improving housing stock, modernizing apartments and establishing down payment assistance programs.

Earlier this month, City Manager R. Steven Herbert said he believed HUD’s action was based on incomplete or incorrect information. In a Nov. 4 letter to the agency, Herbert asked officials to reconsider its decision.

HUD is defending its action, saying it was made using accurate information.

&uot;HUD has reviewed your response and finds that it neither provides new, relevant information contradicting HUD’s findings nor supports the WTHC’s contention that it does have adequate capacity to successfully administer the HOME program,&uot; said Anna M. Farias, HUD’s

deputy assistant secretary for grant programs, in a letter faxed to the city late Thursday.

The consortium’s &uot;performance in actually undertaking and completing housing units with HOME funds has been extremely poor,&uot; Farias wrote.

WTHC has an unspent grant balance of $2.7 million – more than five times the consortium’s annual allocation, she said.

As of September 2004, the consortium had only spent $115,501–or 20 percent–of its


in community housing development funds, according to HUD. Suffolk has not tapped any of the money it has received over the last four years, according to HUD.

&uot;This performance record demonstrates WTHC’s lack of administrative capacity,&uot; said


Not having a HOME coordinator position for more than four months contributed to the city’s poor administrative performance, she added.

Once the consortium has begun spending its backlog of money, said Farias, it can reapply for funding.