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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2010

Housing Trust, mayor still at odds on funds

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Whether the city of Toledo owes nothing or $2 million to the Toledo-Lucas County Housing Trust Fund was not resolved Wednesday in a two-hour hearing, but Mayor Mike Bell agreed to have discussions with housing fund leaders.

Leaders of the Housing Trust Fund and the Bell administration squared off in front of City Council.

Pending in council is an ordinance to appropriate $178,000 to the trust fund to make up for lack of funding in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Still to be decided would be the amount that would be paid for 2009, 2010, and beyond.

Mayor Bell initially refused to provide any money to the housing fund, and then last week offered a compromise that appears to cap the city's obligation to the trust fund at $240,000 through 2013.

Mr. Bell's proposal was criticized as being made without discussion with housing fund leaders.

"While we welcome the olive branch, that is a great thing, there ought to be a conversation," said Hugh Grefe, president of the Housing Trust Fund.

He said the Trust Fund's accounts are so low that 2009 grant recipients have been asked not to draw down any of their money until more funding can be secured through the city and Lucas County.

Mr. Bell contends that there is no legal obligation on the city's part, but that he proposed his compromise as a way to reach out.

"This administration is not anti-housing. It is not anti-helping people in the community. But it is about the business of making sure we have accountability, and that is extremely important," Mayor Bell said.

"I'm prepared to sit down and listen," he said.

Leaders of the trust fund, which distributes grants for construction and renovation of low-income housing, contend that city council passed resolutions in 1990 and 1998 committing the city to provide $3 million to neighborhood housing development from the proceeds of a new parking garage on Superior Street. Of that $3 million, the trust fund claims it is still owed about $2 million.

The money would come from proceeds from the city's four parking garages and on-street parking meters.

Councilman Adam Martinez urged an end to the debate and passage of a funding agreement with the trust fund.

"The Housing Trust Fund is one of the best policies that [previous administrations have] made because it helps create a sustainable neighborhood of economic value," Mr. Martinez said. "Let's move this forward so there's no more question of who the bad guy is."

Adam Loukx, the city law director, said there is no legal obligation on the city's part, and told councilmen that previous councils cannot obligate the current council to spend money.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Herwat questioned the source of the formula on which the housing fund is basing its demands for money.

"Show me where this formula is written down. Show me how this formula is calculated," he said.

Councilman Rob Ludeman, a real estate agent who was on council in 1998, said there was indeed an intent on council's part to commit the city to support the housing fund, and it should be honored.

"The question is how much. This isn't a lot of money in the grand scheme of the number of properties that probably need assistance to help our neighborhoods stay strong over the next three to four years," Mr. Ludeman said.

The trust fund is controlled by a volunteer board of directors.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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