May 21, 2011

Regarding the May 16-17 front-page series “Million-Dollar Wasteland”:

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnership Program has a 20-year record of success, producing more than 1 million affordable housing units. By playing down the thousands of projects that have been completed in a timely manner and ignoring hundreds recognized for innovative design and financing, The Post’s investigation painted a distorted picture, solely citing troubled projects and highlighting a few dramatic failures.

 More than $30 billion has been appropriated for HOME to date, but Post reporters focused on $650 million in projects that were delayed or defunct, or only about 2 percent. Moreover, the articles’ headlines were often misleading. One claimed that hundreds of millions of dollars were “lost,” when it appears abundantly clear that most of the $650 million was not yet released by HUD or spent by state and local grantees, or in other cases was still retrievable.

The Post reporters also failed to draw the obvious conclusions from their own data. In looking at 5,100 active projects, they found that 1,300 (25 percent) were delayed or defunct. Left unstated: Despite the daunting challenge of producing affordable housing during a crippling recession, 75 percent appeared to be moving toward completion.

 The Post series lacked balance and context. It neither recognized the economic environment confronting the housing industry nor compared the performance of HOME with that of the private housing market, which isn’t doing as well. It unfairly discredited a fine program that has built a unique partnership between the federal government and states, localities and nonprofits. 

David M. Cohen, Chevy Chase

The writer was the director of HUD’s HOME Investment Partnership Program from 1990 to 1994.

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Most state and local housing agencies are good stewards of HOME Investment Partnership Program funds, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development has generally been prudent in ensuring that these jurisdictions meet federal requirements while allowing them to design programs that respond to local housing needs.

Given the urgent need for affordable homes and revitalized communities, The Post series rightly underscored the importance of allocating these scarce resources to well-qualified nonprofits. The nonprofits in our network have an impressive record of performance with public-private partnerships using HOME funds to fill critical gaps in resources. It would be a shame if The Post’s portrayal of this proven investment program undermined support at a time when the resources are so vitally needed.

Thomas Bledsoe, Boston

The writer is president and chief executive of the Housing Partnership Network.

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Thanks John. I am the author and did send the letter you referenced. I am using my real name – Thomas Bledsoe – and I have not sent or posted this letter or a similar item to any other media, forum or blog.

Appreciate your interest in publishing it.

Tom Bledsoe

34 Ricker Road Newton, MA 02458

(617) 720-1999 x. 202 (w) (617) 916-9308 (h) 617) 669-1812 ©

Bledsoe@housingpartnership.net www.housingpartnership.net

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I find it interesting that in the reporting on HUD’s inability to monitor public housing grants, it appears that a major problem is that the agency expects local authorities to adequately monitor and manage projects, which they fail to do. Isn’t this the same approach that Republicans want to apply to Medicaid? Provide grants to the states and let them oversee the spending? Why would anyone expect results to be different?

Raymond E. Meyer, Falls Church

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Mr. Larabee:

I did write the letter from my own sources. I did use my real name. I have not posted the letter to other media or forums. My only involvement is as a taxpayer.

Thanks.

Raymond E. Meyer

Falls Church, VA 22042

ph:703.534.2006

raymofda@aol.com

Falls Church, VA 22042

ph:703.534.2006

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The Montgomery Housing Partnership Inc. (MHP) has successfully developed more than 1,300 units of affordable rental housing in one of the most affluent counties in the United States over the past 22 years. MHP has taken vacant eyesores and turned them into vibrant buildings, as well as preserved existing buildings so that residents wouldn’t be displaced by condo conversions.

Regarding the Rockville project discussed in “Undeveloped Dreams,” we utilized HOME funds and private financing to purchase the land to build a 107-unit, mixed-income building within blocks of Metro and retail. After the lot was purchased, the city of Rockville changed its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which placed a moratorium for several months on all development in the school district where the land was located.

After we received the Planning Commission’s approval to proceed, a small group of vocal neighbors challenged the approval in court for 21 / 2 years and got the district placed back into a moratorium, preventing the project from moving forward. These are the facts, and clearly the delays were out of our control.

Robert A. Goldman, Silver Spring

The writer is president of the Montgomery Housing Partnership.

rgoldman@mhpartners.org 12200 Tech Road Suite 250 Silver Spring, MD 20904 Phone - 301-622-2400 x14 Fax - 301-622-2800

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