Brenda Konkel is kicking up some dust about what she calls a potential "raid on the Affordable Housing Trust Fund" by the Community Development Authority.
Essentially, CDA is looking for a huge chunk of the approximately $4 million in the Housing Trust. It is requesting a quarter of the total amount in hopes of renovating 71 affordable housing units at Truax Park.
However, current city ordinance forbids the trust from spending more in one year than 25 percent of the total amount raised the previous year. According to Schumacher, there are always fears that one big developer will come in and monopolize the fund, taking all the money for one project. But the restrictions are also in place because of a stated goal to raise $10 million for the trust, and then spend from that point on as funds come in. The money comes from a variety of sources, including private contributions and Council appropriations.
Some housing advocates and local leaders, including Konkel and Schumacher, have advocated changing the law for years. They argue the fund should be given more flexibility to fund worthy projects, and now that fundraising for the trust has stagnated, Konkel believes there is little reason to restrict spending. The mayor has not included any funding for the trust for several years now.
Tonight, the Community Block Grant Development Committee will be discussing proposed revisions to the Affordable Housing Trust Ordinance, which would allow the city to spend up to 25 percent of the total trust on any one project. That is coincidentally the exact figure that would allow CDA to pursue the Truax project. Konkel's blog post suggests the revisions are only being pursued now to facilitate the CDA project, which she believes is an unwise and wasteful use of city money.
Either way, the changes are likely a needed reform. Affordable housing is more important now than ever, especially in light of threats from the federal government to cut HUD funding for cities. $4 million goes a long way in funding housing for low-income residents in Madison. Hopefully the cash won't be spent on frivolous renovation projects (although I probably lack the qualifications to judge the Truax project myself).