The last CAHA meeting was about the future of HUD in Ohio. In a cost saving move HUD will be closing nearly all of the HUD multifamily field offices in the United States. These are the offices that oversee private landlords who serve low income families (Lupica, Rainbow Terrace, Emeritus House). Every resident in the building gets a subsidy from the federal government. HUD monitors the quality of these buildings, assures compliance with federal rules and is the government watchdog to make sure that the buildings maintain occupancy rates. The Cincinnati office has already closed with Columbus and Cleveland closing their multifamily offices in 2014. They are moving staff to DETROIT?? and Chicago. Does anyone find it ironic that HUD multifamily staff will be located in a bankrupt city with a similar number of abandoned properties as the area around Chernobyl in the Ukraine?
We started CAHA twelve years ago when many properties were on the verge of being foreclosed on, and Cleveland was slated to lose over 1,000 units of affordable housing. We wanted to stop the destruction of Longwood (now Arbor Park) and other large properties. We also wanted to know with enough warning if properties were "in trouble" before foreclosure and the loss of subsidized housing. We were concerned that HUD was manufacturing a crisis. They had allowed properties to rot while still sending out a subsidy to these absent landlords every month. Then they would foreclose on the property giving every tenant a voucher, which they could use anywhere in the United States. Cleveland got a rotted out shell of a building while the owner walked away with millions in building maintenance money he used for his annual vacation or boat with no penalty. The tenants got a voucher and we lost an affordable place for people to live in the future. We felt that if HUD were doing their jobs they would never allowed the property to fall into disrepair. HUD, because of a lack of oversight, created a situation in which a property was not fit for human habitation and then instead of funding a new building or forcing building owners to improve the conditions, they just shut the buildings down. No fuss and with the stroke of a pen, the community has fewer places that are affordable for poor people.
CAHA was started so that City, County and advocates can hear directly from HUD regarding buildings that may be in trouble. We can get updates and get ahead of any problems. There are similar groups in Columbus and Cincinnati as well. Now that these offices are closing what is next for the residents and building owners. HUD staff gave a detailed presentation of why they will be closing the office and possible plans. There will still be HUD staff in Cleveland, but just no one to update us about the buildings in our community. Staff have been assigned to oversee buildings from around the country. So the HUD Staff assigned to a problem building in Cleveland may be in the Seattle Washington multifamily office. They may never have seen the building they are assigned to oversee. They are not able to come to Cleveland to report on the building and why it is in trouble.
It is likely that CAHA will continue, but we may need to figure out a new way to get information from HUD. We may need to video conference with the Detroit office. We may need to receive information electronically or seek written reports on the status of multifamily properties in Cuyahoga County. We will figure out a way to get the information so we never again are in danger of losing thousands of units of affordable housing.
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