Feds slash affordable housing funds

Federal funds for affordable housing have been cut significantly.

The Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Feb. 14 had 28 percent less in federal HOME (Home Investment Partnership Program) dollars to allocate this year compared with 2011.

Funds available for 2012 totaled $451,610, of which $45,161, or 10 percent, will go to administration of the program.

HOME dollars are targeted at low- and moderate-income people in the affordable housing areas of land acquisition, new construction, existing home rehabilitation and tenant based rent assistance.

The deep cuts by Congress in the HOME program came after a series of critical stories in the Washington Post, according to Karen Skepper, county director of community and economic development.

New regulations affecting the HOME program are expected to be finalized soon by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which distributes the federal dollars, Skepper said.

The Washington Post stories listed HOME-funded projects across the country that had languished without going forward, she said.

While none of the projects detailed in the Washington Post were located in Anoka County, Skepper recommended only funding projects that can be started immediately the federal dollars become available.

HUD regulations also require the applicant getting the federal money provide a 25 percent match, Skepper said.

There were six applications for HOME funding, plus two more that were not considered because they were late in getting in their applications.

And of the six applications, two were later withdrawn.

With the $406,449, available after the administration costs had been taken out, the HRA, on the recommendation of staff, allocated the bulk of the money, $390,000, to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity for its scattered sites foreclosed homes rehabilitation program.

According to Skepper, this is a new program through which Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity will acquire and rehabilitate up to four foreclosed single-family homes for affordable home ownership.

“The program will focus on foreclosed homes in Coon Rapids and Fridley,” Skepper said.

And Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity will sell each home to families at or below 50 percent of average median income, she said.

The remaining $16,449 will be retained by the Anoka County Community Development Department for tenant based rent assistance, Skepper said.

Likely, it will eventually be allocated to one or both the agencies that received HOME tenant based assistance dollars in 2011 as an incentive to spend that money, she said.

They are Elim Transitional Housing and Rise Inc.

Left unfunded was a $500,000 request from Aeon and the Columbia Heights Public Housing Authority for acquisition and rehabilitation of Parkview Villa North and South low-income senior buildings on 40th Avenue, both of which are currently owned by the city, which is in the early stages of dissolving the public housing status of the north building, according to information provided to the HRA.

County staff recommended against allocating HOME dollars to this project because there are no committed matching funds at this time and the process of dissolving the public housing status and entering into a contract with HUD on the north building for Section 8 housing can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months

The HRA spending decisions on the HOME program will go to the Anoka County Board for final action April 24.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]