Sunday, January 30, 2011

Shift in Federal Housing Policy Concerns Some Advocates

The U.S. Federal Government, in an effort to help homeowners and communities hit hard by the housing crisis, is shifting some of its funding towards programs like the Sustainable Communities Initiative. The initiative is ambitious, and could potentially benefit a number of communities, but some housing advocates worry that rural areas will receive little or no help.
The Sustainable Communities Initiative has a three-pronged approach: energy, housing, and transportation. Grants are awarded for sustainability plans that increasing public transportation access, provide affordable housing, and reduce energy consumption. The overarching goal is "to better connect housing to jobs," according to the HUD website.
It sounds like a great idea, and many communities are already vying for the $100 million in grants that will be awarded through the program. But rural communities and low-population areas like Vermont have discovered that they just can't compete. The regulations and standards of the Sustainable Communities Initiative are hard for rural areas to meet; these areas may have excellent plans for developing sustainable communities but they don't meet median-income or population density requirements.
The Sustainability Initiative requires applicants to include plans for mixed-income/mixed-use communities. The plan has to include, among other things, affordable housing. Lower overall population (in places like New Hampshire) means a lower poor and low-income population, making adherence difficult.
Similar concerns have been voiced about the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2. This program sought to address foreclosure problems, and many low-population areas simply didn't have the foreclosure numbers needed to qualify, despite the fact that foreclosures are at an all-time high.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan has pointed to rural innovation funds included in his department's budget as evidence that HUD programs aren't biased towards urban areas. But that's little consolation for developers, local government officials and community leaders in rural and low-population areas. Nor does it provide much comfort for residents who need help getting into or keeping a home.

No comments:

Post a Comment