Among the dozens of acronyms we've grown accustomed to hearing throughout the City Hall corruption trial is CHDO -- Community Housing Development Organization -- which is why yesterday afternoon's briefing to the city council's Housing Committee titled "Impact of CHDOs in the City of Dallas" caught our eye.
To our disappointment, the trial wasn't discussed, although witness Jerry Killingsworth of the city's housing department was in attendance, as was former council member and frequent trial attendee Diane Ragsdale, who was representing the North Texas Community Development Association.
Ragsdale and other members of the housing community discussed updates and submitted a list of 10 recommendations to improve the city's CHDO program. Their main complaint? The city is not supporting their efforts enough, especially when it comes to funding.
Bill Hall with Habitat for Humanity blamed the city's assessment system of CHDOs for the shortcomings in financial assistance. Rather than acknowledging the work put into revitalizing an entire neighborhood -- e.g. building shopping centers, curbing criminal activity and creating youth development programs -- the city quantifies the CHDO's work based on how many units of housing they build. As Ragsdale said, "We can't be comprehensive when we don't receive comprehensive money."
They also stressed that potential homeowners are finding it difficult to pay for a down payment even when they have enough money to purchase the house itself, recommending a MAP (Mortgage Assistance Program) subsidy increase to at least $25,000.
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Where would the money come from? With careful hesitation, Killingsworth explained that funds for these costly initiatives would need to be diverted from other housing programs, such as the Home Repair Program. Carolyn Davis appeared dissatisfied with his suggestion.
"You need to think outside of the box," she told him.
Tennell Atkins proposed that the $21 million in the housing budget should be taken from developments like Lancaster and given to people for down payment assistance. Steve Salazar pointed to the upcoming bond program and the stimulus package as a possible source. And Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said he hopes the money turns out to be $20 million, resulting in resounding applause from the CHDO reps in attendance.
The meeting concluded with the committee directing Killingsworth and the housing department to draft a plan in four weeks, keeping in mind the individual capacity of each specific CHDO. Additionally, quarterly attendance by CHDO reps at committee meetings is expected.