Housing money may be approved

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Affordable housing in Suffolk should get a shot in the arm tonight.

The Suffolk City Council, which meets at 7 p.m., is expected to approve the distribution of more than $550,000 in 2004 federal housing grants through the Western Tidewater HOME Consortium.

Suffolk heads up the four-locality consortium that includes Franklin and Southampton and Isle of White counties, enabling the region to qualify for HOME money. Those funds are earmarked for maintaining and improving housing stock, modernizing apartments and establishing down payment assistance programs.

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The current pot of money will give each member locality an additional $102,032 in HOME money. The Community Development Housing Organization (CDHO) will receive $110,307 while Suffolk, as lead agency, will get an extra $33,095 to cover the consortium’s administrative expenses.

Last October, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development pulled the consortium’s 2005 funding, saying the organization had accrued too much unspent grant money and that Suffolk lacked sufficient administrative capacity to manage the consortium.

Despite an appeal from the city, HUD refused to reconsider that decision. But the consortium has submitted a letter saying it intends to reapply for funding in 2006, said Leland Jones, spokesman for HUD.

On Tuesday, Jones said he wasn’t able to determine how much the consortium’s member localities have spent on their respective projects since HUD’s denial of the 2005 funding.

&uot;But in our conversations with the Suffolk staff, there seems to be a strong commitment to make sure all the funds are spent in a timely manner,&uot; Jones said.

&uot;With that kind of ethic there, there is a good chance we’ll see some kind of improvement.

&uot;But we can’t say for sure until the numbers are crunched and analyzed.&uot;

HUD will review the consortium’s spending of funds in July, the anniversary of the date the organization signed a contract with the federal housing agency, he said.

Although the use of Community Development Block Grants was not targeted as a problem area last fall, HUD will review the city’s spending of CDBG funds in May, Jones said. The annual review is a nationwide standard.