The District of Columbia will lose about $17 million in community development funds during the next three years under a bill signed yesterday by President Carter.
An official with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development said the new formula used to compute national funding levels for community development blocks grants actually benefits older, deteriorating eastern cities such as Washington. Under the original formula established in 1974, he said, Washington would have received even less such money by 1980.
City housing officials said it is too early to tell what will happen to the city's community development services under the bill. Roy Priest, head of the office of policy development, planning and evaluation for the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, said he hopes the department can find other funds, perhaps from the city, so no programs or services will be cut.
According to a HUD spokesman, the new formula is designed to ease the burden on cities that have received increasingly lower grants since community development block grants were originated in 1974.
During a three-year period starting in 1974, the amound of grants to such cities was supposed to decrease from the pre-1974 total. The new formula is intended to slow the rate of that downward slide for some cities by giving greater weight in the calculations to the age of a city's housing and to population growth lag, the spokesman said.
The bill signed yesterday is known as the Housing and Community Development Act of 1977 and authorizes $14.7 billion in grants during a three-year period to help revitalize the cities. The bill also provides rent subsidies, sets up an urban development action grant of $400 a million a year to stimulate private investment and increases mortgage insurance and lowers down-payment requirements under the Federal Housing Administration.
President Carter said one portion of the bill that does cause me some concern" is the controversial section removing constraints on building of homes in flood-plain areas. He said he will decide later whether "to come back with corrective legislation next year or whether to try to deal with this administratively."
At the bill-signing ceremony yesterday, the President said. "There are some devastated areas where American citizens live that are a disgrace to our great country. There is no immediate solution that can be offered. I have visited the South Bronx last week, which is enough to shake our confidence in the structure that we have evolved."
Robert Embry, HUD's assistant secretary for community planning and development, said cities will receive funds under whichever of the two formulas new or old, allows them the most money. He said the original formula benefitted Southern and Western cities and shifted money away from older cities to newer cities.
"This (the new formula) corrects that problem," he said. The original formula for blocks grants weighed population at 25 per cent of consideration, overcrowded housing at 25 per cent and the percentage of residents below the poverty level at 50 per cent.
Under the new formula, which most benefits older large cities, population growth will be weighed at 20 per cent, poverty at 30 per cent and the age of current housing at 50 per cent.
Embry said the under the 1974 formula. District funding would have been phased from $41 million to $19 million by 1980. Under the new formula, grants to the District will decrease to $23.5 million by 1980, he said.
In the past, some cities were receiving more money than they were entitled to because they sought the grants more aggressively than other cities, Embry said. "We're trying to treat cities equally," he said.
Priest expressed disappointment that the District is not receiving enough U.S. funding to match current community development money.
Priest said he feels the city did not receive more money because it does not have as much housing constructed prior to 1939 as many other eastern cities. He noted that in the past, overcrowded housing was an important factor and that the age of housing was not considered.
Under the new formula, the District is to receive $32 million in fiscal year 1979, $24.7 million in fiscal 1980 and $23.5 million in fiscal 1981.