Fortyfive cities will receive $150 million in new federal grants decided to attract more than $1 billion in private money mainly to restore business districts and create jobs the department of Housing and Urban Development annouced yesterday.
HUD Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris said the funds, called urban developmentsa action grants show the government's commitment evitalizing cities and 'improving quality of life in our vital urban [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
Of 50 projects approved in the 45 cities, six involve [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to hotels and six others will benefit central business districts that have hotels as a major element.
The District of Columbia was not among cities getting the first awards under the grant program, approved by Congress last fall. Mayor Walter E. Washington has said the city will seek $12 million in action grants for six projects that include shopping centers, homes and factories in some of the city's most deperssed neighbourhoods. A city official siad yesterday the projects are now berfore the City Council and will be submitted to HUD by the end od the month.
Harris noted that in his new urban program, President Carter has proposed increasing the action grants, now authorized ast $400 million a year, by an additional $275 million.
'The grants offered today, and the private investment that they have generated in all of these cities, clearly establishes the validity of President Carter's position that the newpartnership in public and private ventures will result in significant new private commitments to our distressed cities,' Harris said.
Besides the hotel projects, which have generated controversy in several cities, the HUD grants went for neighborthood rehabilitation, housing and proposals to attract new businesses and industries to cities or to help those plants already in town to expand their buildings so they won't move to suburbs.
Critics of the htel projects haver charged that they will create mainly dead-end jobs and will not materially benefit poor and moderate-income people.
Asked about such criticisms, Harris said, "The critics are wrong. Hotels are the best employers of low and moderate income and unskilled people I can think of.
"It is possible to start as a dishwasher and end up a chef," she continued, adding that chefs get good incomes.
'The cticisms are founded on prejudice and lack of information on what hotel construction can do for a city," she said. "Cities have a role as tourist centers and cultural centers, and there must be places to receive people coming to then. Hotels are essential. They increase the tax base and I do not accept the criticisms of them.
Gayle Cinotta, head of the Chicago-based National People's Action, a coalition of neighborhood groups in 116 cities, commented later, 'Pat Harris went out of her way to insult everyone who has criticized the hotel projects.
"Funding them shows HUD is lining up with the mayors and big business and had no interest in low and moderate income people. She's not trying to save houses and neighborhoods: she's just trying to bring back the middle class to the downtowns."
Joseph Timilty, chairman of the National Commission on Neighborhoods, said, "HUD judges the revitalization of cities by the way the skylines look. They talk about people programs. I don't see parking projects or new hotels that just take business away from old hotels as net gains.'
Timilty, a Massachusetts state senator form Boston, cited HUD's aweard of $8 million for an underground parking garage in downtown Boston that will be the foundation for a plaza including a hotel. "It's brick and mortar mentality," he said.
A HUD spokesman said $22 million of the grants will be in direct aid for city-held second mortgages on hotels in Buffalo, Wilmington, Del., Poughkeepsie, Baltimore, Louisville and Kansas City, Kan. And, $42 million will go for central business district including hotels in Charleston and Greenville, S.C., San Antonio, Utica, St. Louis and South Bend, Ind. The 12 projects would create 9,316 jobs, he said.
Harris said all the projects will create or retain 43,203 jobs, of which 19,526 will be for low- or moderate-income people.