The Post set out to identify and visually inspect as many final-draw projects as it could, engaging more than 50 student journalists and others to visit construction sites in 100 cities and 30 states, from Manatee County, Fla., to Quincy, Mass. The Post also contacted more than 100 local housing agencies that oversaw the deals.
Overall, The Post found about 75 projects that have produced few or no homes. In some cases, the projects were terminated but it is unclear whether the local housing agency repaid the HUD money as required.
The Post also identified an additional 21 projects that were built but now face delays as housing agencies search for low-income buyers.
Across the country, housing officials struggle to push projects along.
In El Monte, in southern California, local housing officials invested $1.3 million six years ago, in part to turn a shuttered church and union hall into homes for the poor. But the property languished for years without a developer.
“It just kind of sat there,” said Minh Thai, with El Monte’s economic development department. He said the city recently found a developer willing to take on the project.
In Charlotte, local housing officials spent $864,000 in HOME funds on a series of lots that are still empty 11 years later. The original developer dropped out of the deal, and housing officials are hoping a new developer can complete the project next year.
“It’s this whole economy. It’s just not a good time to make something happen,” said Joan Campbell, controller for neighborhood and business services in Charlotte.
In Manatee County, the local housing agency paid $200,000 in HOME funds six years ago to help purchase 16 acres of land. But the property on Florida’s Gulf Coast has been sitting empty; the developer opted out of the deal several years ago.
“He just kind of disappeared off the face of the earth,” said Suzie Dobbs, Manatee County community development division manager. “We have actively been seeking other affordable housing developers. We still have not gotten one to commit. It all comes down to the overall economic situation right now.”
In Turlock, new housing agency director Pitt has been trying to revive the two defunct construction projects. She found a developer for one of the projects, which will have 141 units in a development that will be named “Avena Bella,” which is Italian for “beautiful oats.”
“Just call me stubborn or insistent,” Pitt said. “But I’m going to build it.”
Staff researcher Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.
The following people contributed to this report:
Amanda Seitz, Robert Rogers, Javier Panzar, Jonathan Ortiz, Kenneth Ware Jr., Nicholas Frogameni, Megan Terilli, Cartrese Abrons, Crystal Baublit, Chelsea Boozer, Ashley Brandt, Joan Brannigan, Brandon Bristol, Caitlin Byrd, Amelia Carpenter, Michael Clinton, Paige Cornwell, Devon Edwards, Anne Elliott, Spencer Garn, Lisa Garza, Carly Gelsinger, Acton Gorton, Marciela Gutierrez, Carl Harrison, Lauren Healey, Nathaniel Herz, Kaellen Hessel, Emily Hoerner, Matthew Jacobs, Leo W. Jeffres, Elise Kaplan, Juan Lopez, Liza Mata, Daniel Mediate, Kate Mellnik, Daylina Miller, Monica Nagy, Adora Namigadde, Steven Norton, Jonathan Ortiz, Tessy Palowski, Casey Rackham, James Robinson, Matt Roche, Matt Rosenhoffer, Douglas Siegel, Emily Slack, Austin Smith, Jim Sojourner, Beth Spain, Jessica Stringfield, Andy Thomason, Erin Udell, Monique Valdes, Carolyn Vallejo, Stephen Ward, Tim Webber.