The following is a transcript of SUN’s testimony at the Community Development Block Grant Public Hearing held on March 10, 2004.
My name is Maria Johnson and I am a member of Syracuse United Neighbors.
There is a housing crisis in our neighborhood.
The city has over 1100 vacant houses and nearly half are in SUN’s census tracts–an area that has only 15% of the city’s households. Bank foreclosures are booming–over 300 since July 2001 in SUN neighborhoods–we lose a neighbor every 3 days. 10% of the houses in SUN’s neighborhoods have more than one code violation. This rate is twice as many as any other city neighborhood.
CDBG budget priorities hurt homeowners, benefit bureaucrats.
Housing Commissioner Ortiz and Mayor Driscoll cut $625,000 from the funding for families to pay for home repairs. That money would have paid for another 35 families to replace roofs, rebuild foundations and other needed repairs. The only program to help families finance home repairs has a year waiting list.
At the same time, the Mayor and Commissioner increased by $185,000 the amount of money they pay in salaries and overhead to the city Departments of Community Development and Economic Development. 24% of all CDBG and HOME funds goes to these two city departments in overhead costs.
HUD 108 loan repayments have caused the cuts in the budget.
The City is forced to repay HUD over $2 million this year for bad economic development loans. The City has lost over $6 million out of the CDBG budget in the past decade. This is money that could have been spent to repair our homes and improve our community. Mayor Driscoll has repeatedly said he would lobby HUD in Washington to reduce our payments–but nothing happens.
1) Distribute the cuts in the budget equally–reduce the overhead paid to city bureaucrats and give that money back to programs serving our citizens.
2) More money needs to be put into the programs that this budget was created for: helping families repair their homes and reducing the number of vacant houses.
3) We must stop the bleeding from the HUD 108 loans. We urge the Council to pass legislation creating Council oversight and approval of all HUD 108 loans.
We’re also inviting Mayor Driscoll on March 27th to accompany SUN to Washington–we have a bus, a hotel room and a confirmed appointment with Acting HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson. Get on the SUN bus Matt! Save our neighborhoods. Mr. Mayor, prove that you care about taxpaying homeowners.