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Published: 7/19/2005

City meets deadline on housing funds

The Ford administration has gotten all of its federal HOME funds committed before the July 31 deadline to avoid having to return any of the low-income housing dollars to the federal government, an official told Toledo City Council yesterday.

The city was under pressure from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to commit $2.8 million to projects by July 31.

Tom Kroma, deputy director of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said the goal was met earlier this month. He spoke before City Council's community and neighborhood development committee yesterday.

Mr. Kroma said the department has committed $695,198 toward the July 31, 2006, requirement of committing $2.78 million to low and moderate-income housing construction.

HOME funds are allocated by HUD every year to be awarded to projects that make housing more affordable. The city must have signed commitments for the money within two years or return it. The city has never had to return HOME funds.

The administration was warned in a letter from HUD's regional office in Columbus on May 5 that it was in danger of having some of its 2003 HOME funds returned. At the time, Toledo was 39th out of 41 jurisdictions in Ohio and Michigan toward reaching the 100-percent commitment requirement.

Councilman Michael Ashford urged Mr. Kroma to spell out the process for applying for HOME funds more clearly so all the nonprofit community development corporations can apply.

"We have to put in a process that we're going to spend those $2 million and we're going to do it in an objective and fair way," Mr. Ashford said.

Mr. Kroma said the normal process for HOME funds is for them to be approved by his department's staff.

In an effort to generate some more ambitious proposals, Mayor Jack Ford in October issued a call for new projects. The so-called NOFA - for "notice of funding availability" - attracted eight proposals, of which two have been approved so far. They are "One Block at a Time," a development of 11 homes in the vicinity of Stewart Elementary School by Organized Neighbors Yielding eXcellence, and Edison Place, a 15-home development near Chase Elementary School by NorthRiver Development Corp. and Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority.

The administration allocated $758,000 to One Block at a Time and $674,085 to Edison Place.

"The applications for NOFA we consider as the pipeline for future development," Mr. Kroma said.

Kim Cutcher, NorthRiver's executive director, said applying for HOME funds from the city requires persistence.

"There is no real formal fill-out-this-form process. Even if you do have all your ducks in a row you still have to prod and push," she said.

Ms. Cutcher had complained earlier this year that the city's slow pace of approving money for the Edison Place project was jeopardizing hopes for a Parade of Homes at the site next year.

City Council last week approved an allocation of $156,000 for infrastructure work that includes sewers, water lines, curbs, and streets.



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