Area officials expressed dismay and anger yesterday at a proposal to close the Washington field office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a plan they fear would mean the loss of significant amounts of federal housing dollars for the region.
"We regard this proposed office reorganization as a serious attack on housing and community development programs and planning efforts in the Washington metropolitan area," said D.C. City Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), in a letter to HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce Jr.
Crawford, Fairfax County Supervisor Martha V. Pennino and Takoma Park Mayor Sammie A. Abbott yesterday held a press conference to denounce the plan, saying it would break up cooperation among Washington area jurisdictions through COG to deal with housing on a metropolitan area-wide basis.
The proposal calls for the responsibilities of the Washington field office, located at 1875 Connecticut Ave. NW, to be divided between HUD offices in Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia, COG officials said.
The field office administers federal housing programs in the Washington area. Local officials fear that breaking up the office would mean less access to dwindling federal housing dollars and fragmented housing efforts.
Darry Carmine, a spokesman in the Philadelphia office, said discussion of the proposed reorganization is in the "preliminary" stages and that no decision has been made.
The American Federation of Government Employees Local 3796, which represents HUD workers, has written Pierce "emphatically opposing" the plan. The letter said HUD regional administration Kenneth Finlayson had submitted the proposal to HUD headquarters. Carmine said that was not correct and that the administrator is still reviewing the plan.
Without the local HUD office, Northern Virginia would compete with other areas of the state for funds flowing through Richmond, and suburban Maryland would compete with Baltimore in that city's office. HUD officials are not familiar with Washington area housing problems, warned the local elected officials at the press conference.
Crawford said the District would have to deal with three separate HUD offices: Philadelphia for public housing, Baltimore for other multi-family housing programs and a scaled down office at HUD headquarters in Southwest for single-family housing programs.
He said the plan would result in 25 employes of the Washington office being fired, 36 being transferred to Baltimore, 15 to Richmond, four to Philadelphia and 43 to HUD headquarters.