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Published: Friday, 10/4/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

TOLEDO COUNCIL RACE

Hopefuls Ford, Gabriel pitch city housing plan

Pair decry proposal to build homes rather than repair old

BY TOM TROY BLADE
POLITICS WRITER
Ford Ford
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Toledo City Council candidates Jack Ford and Theresa Gabriel — one an unendorsed Democrat, the other a Republican-turned-independent — teamed up Thursday to issue a nine-point plan for smarter housing policy in Toledo’s central city.

Gabriel Gabriel
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Mr. Ford and Ms. Gabriel, both veterans of city government, criticized city policy that they said favors building new homes over maintaining older ones, and they also threw some support towards mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins.

Mr. Ford criticized the recent announcement of a $10.4 million plan to construct 40 tax credit-funded homes in the central city when newer tax-credit homes sit empty and boarded up.

“We have 40 new homes going in this area when we already have 16 that are unoccupied,” Mr. Ford said.

Mr. Ford called for full disclosure from nonprofit community development corporations that build such houses of any fees or incentives they are getting for the work, and he said the emphasis should be on rehabilitating existing houses rather than building new.

Mr. Ford was mayor 2002 to 2006 and Ms. Gabriel was assistant chief of staff under former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. They held their news conference on Bancroft Street next to several homes owned by Warren Sherman Flats LLC that are now in foreclosure.

“On certain issues we’re going to be operating in tandem, as a team, on city council, especially as it relates to the crisis in housing,” Mr. Ford said.

They called for an annual report on blighted and vacant homes, for market studies before the city spends money on new tax credit housing, and to use city resources beyond the restricted block grant funding that come from the federal government.

A Blade investigation in 2012 reported on 16 tax credit-built homes that were empty and disclosed that more than 50 houses in the near-downtown neighborhood of Warren-Sherman Flats were in foreclosure.

In August, Mayor Bell joined in announcing a project by nonprofit organizations for 40 new single-family homes in the Cherry Legacy Neighborhood — the same general central-city area as the homes in Warren-Sherman Flats.

Mr. Bell responded Thursday that the Warren-Sherman Flats homes were developed long before his administration. Mr. Bell said that their problems may have been because of management shortcomings and said other tax-credit housing is successful.

He said he has confidence in the plan that will build 40 homes in the area.

“You have people talking about increasing quality of life in central city neighborhoods, which we’re attempting to do,” the mayor said.

He said the administration is working with the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority to take over and manage abandoned newer housing.

Mr. Ford and Ms. Gabriel expressed agreement with Mr. Collins’ views on homeless shelters.

“We are going to make sure people who are vulnerable, particularly battered women, who need support of City Hall are going to get that,” Mr. Ford said.

They said they were not making an endorsement in Mr. Collins’ race against Mayor Bell.

Mr. Collins has taken issue with Mr. Bell’s policy of reducing funding for homeless shelters in favor of the Lucas County Homelessness Board, which seeks to help people avoid homelessness. The mayor has said he is trying to implement federal policy.

Mr. Ford’s coattails could help Ms. Gabriel hang on to her sixth-place finish in the primary going into the general election on Nov. 5. Mr. Ford had the second highest vote total in the Sept. 10 primary.

Among those Ms. Gabriel edged out of the top six slots were incumbent Democrats Adam Martinez and Shaun Enright. The top six finishers on Nov. 5 will fill six at-large council seats.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.



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