Affordable housing could see cuts

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Despite widespread support for Wake County’s affordable housing plans, the program could see cuts this year depending on what happens with federal funding for housing programs across the country.

At a public hearing during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, representatives from local homeless advocacy groups voiced their support of the county’s affordable housing action plan for fiscal year 2011-2012. The budget to implement the action plan, however, may drop by 25 percent or more compared to this fiscal year’s funding.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires an action plan for disbursement of federal funds to combat homelessness and poverty.

The action plan sets forth priorities for those funds over the next year. Renters earning at or below 40 percent of area median income (AMI) per year, as well as homeless individuals and families and those who are not homeless but have special needs, have been deemed to need the most attention from the county’s Housing and Community Revitalization. Renters and homeowners grossing between 41-50 percent of AMI are given second priority.

Commissioner Joe Bryan (District 1), voiced concern over the probable decrease in federal money. “Last Friday, I was in Washington and heard [Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] Ron Sims speak. He would be quick to say no one knows for sure what’s going to happen in the federal government’s budget. But clearly the discussion was out there that there would be at least a 25 percent haircut in this coming budget.”

“If it’s a 25 percent cut at the federal level, it would be a 25 percent cut at the county level,” responded Annemarie Maiorano, administrator of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Revitalization and presenter of the action plan. “There will be some tough decisions.”

Maiorano indicated that the county would likely learn in March how much money it would receive from HUD.

Rick Miller-Haraway, vice chair of the Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness and director of the Raleigh regional office of Catholic Charities, urged the board to consider the critical need for services and facilities to alleviate poverty. “We get calls every day at Catholic Charities from people who are being evicted or foreclosed upon, and there’s no need to even bother to call the homeless shelters because we know they’re full.”

According to Miller-Haraway, approximately 3500 in Wake County have experienced homelessness this fiscal year. “I hope that as you [determine where to allocate funds] you remember the face of the 1400 children who don’t have a place to go home in one of the two wealthiest counties in North Carolina.”

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