Monday, November 17, 2008

Investing Big Dollars in our Communities: Update

Last month, I announced the great news that Hamilton County had received almost $8 million from the federal government to invest in the County neigborhoods (Cincinnati received its own allocation) hardest hit by foreclosure:

After a month of hard work and gathering community input, our draft program is shaping up nicely. We will submit it to the federal government for approval on December 1.

What will this program mean? Millions of dollars invested to eliminate and demolish blighted properties in our communities, redevelop and upgrade old, foreclosed housing stock, as well as the potential for new greenspace, new commercial development, and even new jobs.

And the philosophy of our approach is that the 15 targeted communities (selected based on the foreclosure criteria provided by HUD) determine and propose what is best for them, as opposed to the County dictating how they spend the money from above. Other non-targeted communities will still have a chance to access funding for properties that meet the eligibility criteria.

For the full draft of the plan, you can go to:

UPDATE: Here's a story in the Enquirer on the program:

The communities allocated a set amount of dollars, based on foreclosure numbers, are: Colerain Township, Springfield Township, Forest Park, Norwood, North College Hill, Cheviot, Golf Manor, Mt. Healthy, St. Bernard, Cleves, Lincoln Heights, Elmwood Place, Lockland, Silverton, and Woodlawn.


Anonymous said...

Whoof! That was a hard read - must've been even harder to put together and someone did alot of work. A couple comments (since there REALLY wasn't any public comment period):
1. why are we building 2 bedroom single family homes for the elderly? What's the second bedroom for (especially since these are low income families). Will there be a rule about letting little Joey come live there also?
2. the additional costs for free standing verses condo style doesn't seem justifiable - at least group them 3-6 units together sharing common walls. This also helps reduce energy costs and adds safety.
3. neighborhoods have been complaining about over-saturation for low income families - this whole thing appears to compound that problem. I would suggest a for-profit, mixed with higher end income housing. Concentrating the poverty is a step backwards. Do it like you would the banks, pre-sell half the units on open market then the other half for low and moderate incomes.
4. I think forgiveness of the loans is appropriate - but only if the family is below an income level. Let's say a young mom entering college and working gets a 15K down payment soft mortgage - she becomes a nurse and makes 50K per year. then wins the lottery. Now, c'mon, that's not fair to forgive her debt. It's not fair to the next single mom coming up and working hard not to benefit from the public's investment also. And, even if the family never achieves financial strength, then dies, why should her heirs acquire the benefit of the eventual sale of the home if the loan isn't paid back? Heck, it could be a drunk with free housing per the taxpayer. This aspect needs to be fixed - this should be an investment into multiple generations not just a start up.
5. why in the world is the costs for financial counseling 750 per family? This seems ridiculous. It seems we may be creating an exhaustive, prolonged process that isn't necessary to achieve the goals (informed, educated,prepared). Condense the program and "appearances" to an internet program maybe and then give the family a comprehensive test to pass and save a bunch of money.
6. same's true for the appraisals and legal fees - 1800 costs should be well reduced if we award a contract rather than pay per diem. (Unless the legal advice comes in the acquistion part not in the selling to the end user part)
7. Why is the allocation for woodlawn with only 50 foreclosures - which is what, 1/16th of colerain twps receive 50% of the funding Colerain receives? This doesn't seem to jive properly.
8. this is supposed to be about residential property - why is any money being spent on commercial property at all. doesn't seem consistent with the program goals unless the commercial property will be translated into residential units.
9. the allowable 10% for administration on top of the budgeted cost for legal, appraisal and counseling seems way too high. while it is permitted, it seems excessive. how many positions will be created with those funds and who gets to apply for the jobs?
10. there is nothing in this plan for employment. the statute seems to provide an opportunity to expand education and experience in various fields -- how are we using this program to promote jobs for the people who live in these communities? good jobs.
11. i think you under-estimate the number of low income families that SHOULD qualify for home loans: target the elderly, the disabled, the temporarialy unemployeed, those in school. We need to adjust the requirements and offer some mechanism for lending institutions to permit these different standards. For example: in my conventional home loan the lender included my years in college as "time on the job" because it was with a consistent endeavor. Affordabiity in this program should be the opposite of what caused the economic collapse. Everyone with a regular job and demonstrating financial responsibility should be able to own a home. The difference is instead of giving them higher interest rates reflecting the risk - let's disprove the myth that people who haven't met certain archaic, old school measures can't own a home. Let's reduce the interest rate that is the most common problem in the predatory lending that got us here. It wasn't the character of people - it was simply their ability to pay the exorbinant interest rates, not the principle. I want to see the walmart worker buy a home even if she always works at walmart. let's make a contract with lenders wherein they get the down payment funds ( which earn some interest) and creates a buffer in payments through immediate equity and reduces their risk for foreclsoure (if that makes sense)
12. HomeArama - is it possible, since they might not even have one this year, to have a HomeArama for the lower and middle income families and creating a pool of buyers via the program that might qualify the builder for some lending opportunities?
13. Why is the cost for commercial tear downs twice that for residential? Unless some hazardous conditions exist - this seems weird. Let's get a low-bid contract and reduce the costs all around.
14. matter of fact - let's competitively bid all this stuff and make the funds go further.

Oh well - that's my comments. Sure is alot easier to critize than to put this plan together in the first place.

Anonymous said...

nightline had a guy on named, of all things, odell owens. he has been making a fortune investing in abandoned/foreclosed/ dilapidated homes. he said he doesn't understand why lenders and gov'ts arent targeting this huge popluation of low wage earners like he has to build his fortunes. he SELLS to low income people, sets the martgage payment consistent with their income, and devises plans to allow them to do alot of the beautification of the property. he said, contrary to selling these homes to investors ( predatory?) that doing the right thing - has been incredibly profitable and very good for the communties.
(Just like I said)

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