Thursday, January 14, 2010

Not dropping dead so easily

'HUD to Mahoning Valley: Drop Dead.' Those were the words the Vindy used to describe Youngstown being rejected for a share of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds given by the Federal government to communities across America. Of $2 billion going out the door for housing and community projects (such as acquiring land and property, demolishing and/or rehabilitating abandoned properties, to offer down payments and closing costs to low- to middle-income homebuyers, and creating land banks), Youngstown gets zip, nada, nothing.

The Vindy isn't the only paper taking HUD to task. A scathing editorial appeared a few months ago in the Plain Dealer papers calling the agency and NSP a "a bureaucratic morass from which few emerge".

Congressman Tim Ryan was quick to send a letter to President Obama and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, stating that this will be at the top of the agenda for next week's White House meeting between President Obama, Jay Williams, and him.

If I was the President, meeting with Youngstown's leaders next week, I would be quick about getting some answers.

The text of the letter:

January 14, 2010

President Barack Obama

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

It is with great disappointment that I write this letter. This morning, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the second round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, and a proposal for my District, which had been praised by the Brookings Institution as a proposal that “represents an unprecedented level of multi-jurisdictional collaboration,” was not funded. This decision is particularly egregious due to the inadequate level of funding received by my District in the initial program funding round.

The cities of Youngstown, Warren, Niles, Girard, Struthers, Campbell, Lowellville, McDonald, and Newton Falls – the Mahoning River Cities Consortium – proposed an innovative redevelopment effort that would utilize $32 million to stabilize neighborhoods that are facing unprecedented population loss, widespread substandard housing, and vacancy rates substantially above the national average. Add to those neighborhood issues significant losses to local manufacturing and service industries, above-average subprime loan rates, and a foreclosure rate that exceeds 11 percent – and you have a region that should be at the forefront of this type of assistance.

This Administration has lauded the benefits of collaboration and importance of government efficiency, yet both were ignored in the denial of this application. The regional cooperation advocated by this application is a model that should have been awarded full funding and replicated by other communities in the Rust Belt and, indeed, across the nation. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has missed a prime opportunity to recognize the plight of those smaller, older industrial cities that have suffered a major decline and are presented with a weak recovery in this economy at best. Given the quality of the proposal and the need of residents of my District, it is hard for me to believe that of the $2 billion announced today, the Mahoning River Cities proposal was of no merit.

As the Congressman of the 17th Congressional District, in which all nine of these cities are located, I plan to raise this issue when Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams and I meet at the White House next week. In addition, I am seeking an opportunity to meet with HUD Secretary Donovan as soon as possible. I will ask the Secretary that our proposal be reconsidered, or that some other form of assistance be forthcoming. The people of my District are looking to the Federal Government as an ally in this recovery effort, but the denial of this grant opportunity is a setback that we can ill afford.


Tim Ryan
Member of Congress

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