Danielle Stewart for Mayor of Beckley

Position Paper #12: Housing and Community Development Block Grants

 

“We have the money.  We’ve just made choices about how to spend it. Over the years, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have restricted housing aid to the poor but expanded it to the affluent in the form of tax benefits for homeowners.  Today, housing-related tax expenditures far outpace those for housing assistance.  In 2008, federal expenditures for direct housing assistance totaled less than $40.2 billion, but homeowner tax benefits exceeded $171 billion.  That number, $171 billion, was equivalent to the 2008 budgets for the Department of Education, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Agriculture combined.”  

― Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

 

Beckley has serious housing problems.  How do I know (beyond what my eyes see, and ears hear)?  The City of Beckley says so in their HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) FY 2019-2023 Five-Year Consolidated Plan and FY 2019 Action Plan.  You can search for the document HERE.  Here are specific quotes on housing from the document submitted by Beckley.

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Notice the “Low Priority” in parentheses in each picture?  Reread that quote at the beginning.  We know the problem; the city refuses to make housing a priority.  So, what are the priorities in Beckley?  Here you go:  

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According to HUD, we can use CDBG funds for these programs:

  • New Housing Construction

  • Activities Aimed at facilitating Private Development

  • Conversion and Acquisition of Existing Structures for Housing

  • Rehabilitation

  • Housing Payments for Owners and Renters

  • Housing Counseling

  • Fair Housing Activities           

  • And much more....  

 

You can find out what else we can do with CDBG funds HERE and HERE:

I want to take a minute and talk about the first issue, Housing Strategy.

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I attended the Raleigh County Community Action Association (RCCAA) Community Needs Assessment meetings in 2019.  At that time, I talked to their housing coordinator who stated the biggest issue they have is that the housing in Beckley does not meet minimum HUD standards and because of that, there is a huge waiting list for housing.  Money is not the issue.  HUD housing standards are not difficult to meet.  HERE is the actual inspection document used .  The standards are very basic and yet few houses in Beckley qualify.

 

The City of Beckley and the Raleigh County Community Action Association agree that housing is a huge issue in Beckley but very little is being done about the problem.  I will change that.

 

I want to create a city ordinance that requires all houses and apartments for rent in Beckley to meet minimum HUD requirements within one year.  After that first year, any house or apartment that does not meet minimum HUD requirements cannot be rented to anyone.  This will force landlords and rental agencies to upgrade their facilities or they cannot rent them.  I will not leave property owners without support.  I will use the above mentioned CDBG funds to offer zero interest loans and grants that will allow landlords to improve their property at a lower cost. 

 

I will also use CDBG and city funds to rehabilitate neglected houses in neighborhoods to create affordable housing (under $75,000) for low income families.  I will offer incentives and loan guarantees to contractors to renovate the houses.  I will then use CDBG funds to assist low income home buyers with down payments and closing costs.  I will create neighborhoods with families and not neighborhoods of blight.

 

Last, I will follow the lead of the City of Charleston and create a Land Bank for Beckley.  Land banks are governmental entities or nonprofit corporations that are focused on the conversion of vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties into productive use.  Land banks acquire and maintain problem properties and then transfer them back to responsible ownership and productive use in accordance with local land use goals and priorities, creating a more efficient and effective system to eliminate blight.  You can find out more about Land Banks HERE.  We will fight blight with every tool we have. 

 

Our families, our children, our college students deserve affordable, safe, and sanitary houses and apartments.  Governments should not have to step in to make that happen but the reality in Beckley is that if the city does not do something then nothing will change.  I will do everything in my power to create the best housing situation in West Virginia.

 

“it is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need.  Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country.  The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”

― Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City