Monday, July 08, 2002

Townships, city reject grants

Hamilton Co. money comes with conditions

By Erica Solvig,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Rather than allow unwanted low-income housing in their communities, officials in three townships and one city have opted not to participate in the Hamilton County Community Block Grant program.

        The grant has long included a requirement to let the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority provide low-income units.

        But this year, officials from Deer Park, Anderson Township, Sycamore Township and Symmes Township were concerned about a plan to develop 450 housing units outside the central neighborhoods of the city of Cincinnati.

        “It sends a message that we don't want it - we don't want the housing,” said Don Rohdenburg, a Deer Park city councilman. “We would take the money if it didn't have the strings attached.”

        In past years, each of the communities has accepted block grants exceeding $50,000. They are used for general community improvement, including roads and public parks.

        Even though some communities have opted out of the grant program, CMHA, which has countywide jurisdiction, still could put low-income housing in those communities, said housing authority executive director Donald Troendle.

        The block grant program, which has been around since the 1970s, distributes millions of dollars during each three-year cycle, said Dan Domis, Hamilton County's director of community development.

        Cities and villages must sign a cooperative agreement at the start of each cycle if they want their applications to be considered, Mr. Domis said.

        Seven cities and villages in Hamilton County did not participate in the last cycle, and most of them have never participated in the program, Mr. Domis said.

        Township administrators in Anderson, Sycamore and Symmes townships all said the housing authority's proposal to create low-income units outside the city influenced the decision not to participate in the next cycle, which runs until 2005.

        The additional housing, which will either be built or purchased, is part of the housing authority's expansion outside the downtown area. Units will be distributed throughout Hamilton County to meet family and community needs, Mr. Troendle said.

        “While it is possible they will put housing here, it also is more likely that the program would be directed to those that opt into the program,” said Henry Dolive, Anderson Township administrator.

        Other government officials agreed.

        “Part of the block grant requirement would be 20 additional units in the township,” said Michael Berens, Sycamore Township administrator. “We weren't necessarily against all that, but we felt like we didn't have enough say about what was going on in our own township.”


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