Suffolk going after housing money

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2005

Suffolk is back in the race to acquire federal money through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program.

On Wednesday, the Suffolk City Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city’s participation in the Western Tidewater HOME Consortium.

The city, along with neighboring Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, formed the consortium in 1996 to apply for the HOME funds. Money administered through that program is earmarked for maintaining and improving housing stock, modernizing apartments and establishing down payment assistance programs.

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As the consortium’s lead agency, Suffolk is charged with distributing the money and annually monitoring how each community uses it.

In October 2004, HUD notified the city that it would be withdrawing future funding-including the anticipated $500,000 allocation for 2005-because the consortium had accrued too much unspent money in recent years. At that time, the federal agency reported the consortium had $2.7 million in unspent HOME funds-an estimated five years in grant funding.

City Manager R. Steven Herbert appealed HUD’s action last November, saying the locality believes the agency’s decision was based on incomplete or incorrect information.

But HUD upheld its original decision and recommended that the consortium apply for recertification to qualify for 2006 funding. The recertification application has to be filed with HUD by June 30.

Council’s action sets the stage for that process, said Assistant City Manager Cynthia Rohlf.

The governing bodies of other member localities are adopting similar resolutions, she added.

&uot;We think we have needs and projects that qualify for the funds,&uot; said Mayor Bobby L. Ralph.

&uot;This application…is getting us back on the list to qualify for funding.

&uot;It’s getting us back on track.&uot;

Indications are that the consortium has been successful in addressing the issues that cropped up last year, said Leeland Jones, a spokesman in HUD’s Richmond field office.

&uot;They seem to have accelerated their commitment and expenditure rates,&uot; said Jones. &uot;That is what the whole matter was about last year.

&uot;Our concern was that they were holding so much money in reserve,&uot; Jones said.

&uot;It does appear the consortium has been making progress in making sure the money is getting out there on the streets to do what it is supposed to be doing.&uot;