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Common Council Seeks to Restore Housing Funds

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Buffalo Common Council members say the Council needs to take a more active role in securing federal housing funds. It's part of the city's ongoing efforts to reclaim more than $7 million in lost HUD block grants.

There were a lot of red faces and finger pointing last year when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development denied the city's $6.2 million HUD application. The embarrassment got worse when HUD then took back $1.5 million from a previous grant that the city failed to spend.

The Common Council was quick to blame city officials. But Council members weren't exactly in the dark. This week, Lovejoy District Council Member Richard Fontana told the Council it's been a pattern.

"For too long the department has been stagnant, the money has not hit the streets," said Fontana. "We've lost I think, and we've been here three years, loans getting out to the community that we've seen have been a waste."

Since the problem came to light, there's been a lot of scrambling to get the money back. The Mayor eliminated about a third of the city's Urban Renewal Agency staff. A new director was hired and consultants called in to help reclaim the funds. But Masten District Councilman Antoine Thompson says the Council needs to take responsibility and make sure this isn't another quick fix.

"Often times the city does enough to get out of the frying pan and then we put all these speculative projects on the table, those projects don't get completed and we're back to square one again because we haven't spent the money," said Thompson. "So, I think it would be a really good, proactive step for the Council to have a total understanding of all those projects and make sure we work with the administration to make sure those projects get completed, so we're not in the same situation again where we're sending money back to Washington because we didn't spend it."

Councilman Fontana says he will submit a resolution at the next Common Council meeting requiring the Council receive monthly reports on the status of all HUD loans and funding activity.