There are some civic minded real estate developers that want to do something to assist the very large and fast growing block of people who need affordable housing. After years of planning and subdivision approvals those developers are doomed to appear before the inquisitors at their local HUD office. By this time they may realize their business model of actually trying to help people may be a financial disaster for them and the developer himself may soon be in need of low income housing but it’s too late to turn back.
I heard about the dreaded HUD inquisitor woman in Philly who wants all housing proposals printed out completely including the sections and subsections referred to. The result is an entire day spent at Kinko’s and suitcases full of paper. And after a long wait the HUD inquisitor has revisions and another long wait and reams of paper at Kinko’s, more revisions and so on. While waiting for the results of the HUD inquisition, grants and financing run out and the developer’s plans go the way of the Titanic. The home ownership dreams of middle income people who would own those planned homes go down with that ship.
I can imagine HUD inquisitor woman’s office. A maze of paper columns piled five foot high with a desk lost somewhere in the maze. That’s the impression that I have of HUD in Philly.
If that developer had an organization like First Suburbs to go to bat for him and get the Deputy Secretary of HUD in DC to nudge the inquisitor in Philly his development might not have sunk.
Helping communities deal with the HUD inquisitor by going directly to HUD in D.C. is one thing that First Suburbs can do for small communities like Coatesville.
At the City of Coatesville’s City Council Meeting last night there was an interesting discussion of how the Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project could help the City of Coatesville.
Coatesville City Manager Ted Reed, “Mr. Hudson, as a matter of fact has attended a meeting two weeks ago of First Suburbs with the HUD regional deputy director in Philadelphia to present concerns to her. And so we have been participating as we can because they have been inviting us to come. They feel that Coatesville is very critical to their particular areas of concern.”
City Council President Ed Simpson, “Do you feel that it is a good committee?”
Coatesville City Manager Ted Reed,
“There are actually three areas; one is transportation, one is schools and the third is actually HUD and the low income housing that seems to be concentrated in just a few municipalities as compared to the rest of communities. Coatesville for example has approximately, so I am told, 51% of Section 8 housing, of all Section 8 housing in Chester County. So 51% of Section 8 housing in 1.6 square miles of the County and that’s Coatesville….
First Suburbs is attempting to try to get a fair share of low income housing spread throughout the County rather than concentrating it in one or two small areas.
Mr. Hudson went to, as I said, to the HUD office to discuss with them those concerns about spreading out this subsidized housing. Would you like to speak to that?”
Assistant City Manager Kirby Hudson,
“One of the points, actually there are two points that really hit close, not only to Coatesville but also to the municipalities that Mr. Reed just spoke of, Norristown, Pottstown. Two points, one being that the whole idea of Section 8 was never to overburden any one particular area. The voucher system was designed for people so that they have a certain amount of money so that they can go pretty much anywhere and assimilate into the surrounding area.
My concern has always been that the enforcement side from the Housing Authority is not there and hasn’t been there for quite some time. Sure it’s there to open up the contract and for the beginning recent part of. At one time years ago when I used to work for the City of Chester Housing Authority you had regular annual visits and a lot of those things have gone by the wayside in HUD because of funding as well as going to third party organizations. So there’s some slippage there.
The second part that’s a problem specifically in this area of Chester County is that the voucher does not afford someone to stay in the County. So realistically someone who has gotten their roots here and their family is there, they can’t afford to stay anywhere near this area even if some of these municipalities opened up their areas and allowed a wider range of people to move in.
So First Suburbs Project is moving to help spread that out, to try to force HUD to put more money into the voucher system and then to stop also overloading places like Coatesville with all the Section 8 vouchers simply because this is the only place that’s affordable.
Coatesville City Councilperson Jameel Brazzle, “Does it work?”
Mr. Hudson, “Does what work?”
Mr. Brazzle, “This program?”
Mr., Hudson, “This program is just starting.
Mr. Reed, “I think it’s about two years old, but another interesting that we found out is, you actually you actually had contact with Washington’s HUD Office.”
Mr. Hudson, “Yes. Because of this organization it was the deputy Secretary of all of HUD that made a call to this office, the regional office in Philadelphia and demanded that they see all of us.
I can tell you this, not as bad as AMTRAK but I will say that HUD at this level, it’s very difficult to get a call to some of these folks. And they have no choice but to listen to the Feds in
D.C. So they actually see that actually see that there are some issues.
If it weren’t for this organization, the power of this organization, we’d still be sitting with cement shoes in the mud.”
Mr. Reed, “This organization is gaining power as well as gaining respect…When the Deputy Secretary of HUD out of Washington calls the regional office and says ‘meet with these people’ somebody’s hearing something in Washington.”
A recording of the First Suburbs discussion at last night's Coatesville City Council meeting is here: