Affordable housing industry rallies around HOME program

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by Ryan Sloan on May 27, 2011

Through a lengthy blog post, HUD made it clear it was not going to take the Washington Post’s evisceration of it’s HOME program lying down.  Now, a group of affordable housing organizations has joined the effort to save HOME’s name from irreparable tarnish, and to blunt the calls for a government-led investigation into the alleged neglect.  In a joint letter to Representative Tom Latham (R-IA) and Representative John Olver (D – MA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, the organizations claim the Post’s series distorts the picture:

We are writing to you in support of the HOME Investment Partnerships program. We want to be sure Congress understands that the recent Washington Post article, “A Trail of Stalled or Abandoned HUD Projects,” seriously distorts HOME’s record by focusing on a very small percentage of HOME developments. The reality is that HOME has successfully and cost-effectively produced more than 1 million affordable homes for ownership and rental, as well as made additional homes affordable for tens of thousands of families with rental assistance.

For good measure, Barbara Thompson, the executive director of the National Council of State Housing Agencies, also wrote a letter to the editor of the Post, imploring the post to set the record straight:

Not only does your article ignore HOME’s long‐heralded record, it also paints a distorted picture of HOME program administration. In sharp contrast to your reporting, the HUD‐state HOME partnership has been a highly effective one, not one plagued by missteps and misdeeds…We implore the Post to correct the record and publish the whole story.

The Post’s story was scathing. The industry’s response has been equally spirited. It will be interesting to watch how this story plays out among the group writing the checks…congress.

Image courtesy of flickr user matturick

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Desperate HOME resident May 28, 2011 at 7:01 am

I live in a HOME program unit at the Mission Gardens Apartments in Santa Cruz, California. I am disabled, specifically I suffer from chronic asthma and obstructive sleep apnea. My doctors have warned me about how dangerous secondhand tobacco smoke (SHS) is to my asthma, my apnea, and other medical conditions.

Yet I find myself in the terrorizing position of having an angry gang of Mission Gardens smokers trying to cause me harm with their SHS around my apartment and car. They are using cigarette smoke to try to kill me based upon hate bias for my disabilities.

This can all be traced back to my request more than two years ago for an accommodation for the effects of my neighbor’s SHS upon my disabilities. Instead of fulfilling my request, the management promoted a smoking ban for the entire apartment complex as the accommodation for SHS upon my disabilities. Quickly angry smokers began harassing me. They solicited 23 signatures in a petition to wrongfully evict my brother and I from the Mission Gardens Apartments, using the smoking ban to persuade other residents to sign the petition.

As I waited for an immediate accommodation for my neighbor’s SHS on me, the management wrote to HUD’s FHEO that the smoking ban was an accommodation for this. My neighbor died from a drug overdose just before the ban went into effect.

However the management never effectively enforced the smoking ban, relying on complaints from other residents who fear retaliation from these smokers like my brother and I have suffered from. Consequently, these residents continued to smoke. Worse, they began smoking around my apartment and my car. They blame me for the Mission Gardens smoking ban. In fact, they came across the apartment complex to smoke around my apartment and my car. They know how dangerous their SHS is for me. They intend to kill me!

The management has refused to install electronic smoke monitors in smokers’ apartments and install just one or two video security cameras around my apartment and my car, to prevent these angry smokers from smoking in those places.

As a result of management’s refusal to fulfill my reasonable accommodation request, I have gone to the HOME program administrator, the City of Santa Cruz, asking them to enforce the nondiscrimination clause of their HOME regulatory agreement with the owners of the Mission Gardens Apartments to require the management to take the actions I requested. Also these angry smokers are violating the City of Santa Cruz’s ban on smoking in the common areas of apartment complexes. Thus I have asked the City of Santa Cruz to enforce their smoking ban here, as these smokers are committing hate crimes against me in violation of Santa Cruz City law.

If the City of Santa Cruz fails to meet their obligations to me, then I will be required to plead with HUD Assistant Secretary Mercedes Marquez to step in. If Secretary Marquez fails to require the City of Santa Cruz to abide by the fair housing and equal opportunities requirements of the HOME program, then I expect my next stop will be a federal courthouse with a lot of media attention.

The HOME program made my unit affordable. But the HOME program should safeguard me from the dangerous SHS of my angry smoking neighbors.


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