Sunday, August 14, 2011

Recent Affordable Housing Updates

Mayor Frank Jackson and State Rep. Mike Foley at the 2007 Candlelight Vigil

July CAHA Meeting

There was no Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance Meeting in August. The last meeting was in July, and we invited State Representative Michael Foley and City of Cleveland Community Development staff member Bill Resseger. The CAHA meeting is a monthly meeting to work together to try to prevent any further decline in the amount of affordable housing in northeast Ohio. Rep. Foley previously was the director of the Cleveland Tenants Organization and previously led the urban initiative when the Democrats controlled the House in 2009 and 2010. Rep. Foley is a strong partisan for urban communities and a strong Democrat, but he is perhaps the foremost expert on housing issues down in Columbus. This is why we bring Rep. Foley to the CAHA meetings, and besides everything now is a partisan in this deeply divided society.

At the July Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance (CAHA) meeting, members had a grim picture painted about all the changes that have taken place in the Ohio Congress in its first half-year. Rep. Foley talked about some of the deep threats to urban communities with the passage of the new budget. In Foley's opinion these cuts are a threat to Cleveland and will destabilize affordable housing in the community. State Representative Michael Foley began the meeting by outlining the opposing parties agenda, which he characterized harms Cleveland and those living in the big cities.

First up on the chopping block is the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, which had its funding cut by 40%, including a $3 million cut in funding previously supplied by utility companies and not by tax payers. There's no good reason for this, according to Foley; it's simply an ideological attack. There was a dramatic cut to local city and county governments, including the elimination of Ohio's estate tax, 90% of which went to local governments. In addition, income tax rates are being lowered on Ohio's wealthiest citizens, along with a new Invest Ohio tax credit, which, according to Foley, contains no requirement for any proof of job creation.

A source of much public outcry has been the recently passed election reform, which drastically reduces the ability of many voters, especially those who are most disadvantaged, such as homeless people, to be able to cast a ballot. In a party line vote, the Republican party reduced early voting and mail-in voting periods, as well as discounting many earnest but "mistakenly filled-out" ballots and requiring more information to fill out a provisional ballot. The tightening of voter ID laws are most likely to pass in the near future according to Foley. [The bill might have died with the sponsors resignation from the Ohio House over a drunk driving arrest.]

Foley concluded his long list of problematic legislation that has passed recently including allowing companies to drill for oil and gas on state land and siphon water from Lake Erie for commercial use. Foley was concerned over the redistricting that could eliminate representation from Cuyahoga County. Foley stressed how frustrating a process these first six months have been, and he felt that much of the legislation will hurt the average Ohioan, not to mention those most reliant on public assistance.

Bill Resseger from the Cleveland Department of Development then took the helm to explain how budget cuts have and will impact affordable housing in Cleveland. He mentioned that since 2002, both CDBG and HOME have seen at least a 30% decline in funding, but that legislators are still looking at these two programs for more cuts. Some of these cuts will be reduced because of the r the Neighborhood Stabilization funded programs, beginning next year. Another troubling fact is that much of the stimulus money that Cleveland to address the foreclosure crisis got went to tearing down buildings.

On the plus side, the city will see an additional $450,000 in Emergency Shelter Grant money coming. These funds will probably soften the blow of the ending of the 2009 stimulus used to prevent homelessness which will probably end in March or April of 2012. The City is putting money into renovating Neal and Boulevard to go along with the private funding. In addition, things appear to be moving right along for further expansion of Permanent Supportive Housing projects in the community. However, with all the budgetary cuts coming out of Columbus and Washington affecting local governments all over Ohio, it will be harder and harder to maintain an adequate availability of affordable housing moving forward. At a time when the housing market is still in peril and many homeless and low-income people are struggling to put a roof over their head, it is going to be more difficult for cities to preserve affordable housing and it looks like developing new housing is off the table.

by Brian with Sam the Interns help
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