Paterson Loses Another $835,000 in Federal Housing Funds
Saturday, October 6, 2012 • 10:26am
PATERSON, NJ – Paterson last week lost $835,252 in federal funding for not using affordable housing grants originally earmarked for the city in 2005, according a notice issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
That makes at least $4.1 million that HUD has taken back from Paterson or penalized the city during the past two years for problems stemming from 2009 and earlier. Moreover, Paterson is in danger of losing another $1.8 million from its 2007 and 2012 HUD allotments.
Mayor Jeffrey Jones said the city’s problems with HUD originated with former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration. “HUD has this thing if you don’t take care of your past, they’ll punish you in the future,’’ said Jones. “We’ve got stuff backed up from ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07,’08 and ’09.’’
Councilman Kenneth Morris, chairman of the council committee that oversees the city’s housing program, said he was tired of hearing Jones blame Torres’ administration. “At what point does he take responsibility for the leadership of this city?’’ said Morris.
When asked for comment about the situation, HUD spokeswoman, Olga Alvarez, said, “We have no information to share with you at this time, we’ll be in touch when we have more information.’’
City Council President Anthony Davis said at Thursday night’s emergency budget meeting that he had met with HUD officials in Newark earlier in the week to discuss problems in Paterson’s Community Development department. Davis said he learned at that meeting that Paterson was among the only city in the country that hasn’t used all the federal stimulus money granted several years ago. Davis did not go into details about his HUD meeting and did not respond to several attempts to reach him by telephone on Friday.
Under HUD’s policies, local governments have a certain years to allocate and spend housing grants after they are awarded, or else they lose the money.
Here’s a breakdown on some of Paterson’s recent problems with HUD:
- The federal agency warned the city this summer it could lose $912,550 from its 2012 Community Development Block Grant program and $892,600 from its 2007 HOME Investment Partnership program. Alvarez declined to comment on the status of that money.
- The federal agency imposed a $2.2 million penalty against Paterson for mismanagement of housing funds uncovered in a 2009 audit. That penalty is being paid in five installments of $439, 400.
- The federal agency in 2010 and 2009 took back $1.1 million in HOME funding from 2004, 2007 and 2008 because the city had not committed the money to specific projects. The city’s Community Development department has been a battleground between Jones and Morris for the past two years.
Morris has asserted that the city’s inability to use federal money earmarked for housing projects results from the lack of qualifications and experience of the woman Jones appointed to oversee the department, Director Lanisha Makle. Morris said Makle had received numerous warnings during the past year that the city was in danger of losing unused HUD money,
Jones, meanwhile, has said that Makle already has saved the city millions of dollars by correcting problems she inherited. When asked about the federal money that the city has been forced to relinquish in the past couple years, the mayor pointed out that all those instances stemmed from projects proposed under the previous administration that never got off the ground. “You’ve got to have legitimate projects,’’ Jones said.