Saturday, February 15, 2003

CMHA funds rerouted to city water

$450K swap prompted by housing fight

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot has pulled $450,000 in federal funding from the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority in an attempt to get the housing board to drop its plans to demolish English Woods.

Chabot's gambit escalates the growing political battle over the low-income, World War II-era housing complex in the Mill Creek Valley. CMHA wants to demolish it, relocating residents and continuing a move toward so-called Section 8 vouchers instead of housing projects.

West side neighborhood groups and Cincinnati City Council oppose the plan, saying CMHA has not considered the impact on surrounding neighborhoods if 700 units are destroyed and their residents moved elsewhere.

Chabot had previously secured $450,000 for water and sewer improvements to CMHA's City West project in the West End.

Then, upset with CMHA's "heavy-handed approach" to the English Woods plan, Chabot asked Rep. James T. Walsh, chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that handles housing and urban development funding, to change that line-item to redirect the funding to the city of Cincinnati.

The House of Representatives passed the spending bill Thursday. That money will now go to "water infrastructure improvements," no strings attached.

Chabot said he hopes the city can use that money as leverage to get CMHA to slow down its plan.

"The congressman is sending a strong and clear message that he's not going to look favorably on CMHA's request for more federal money until they can be cooperative," said Chabot spokesman Gary Lindgren.

CMHA spokeswoman Jennifer Schaefer said the housing agency isn't getting enough credit for the steps it's taken to gather more community input. The housing authority will vote on the plan Feb. 25.

"What we're hearing is that it's going too fast. You don't hear anyone saying that English Woods is the greatest place to live, and we should keep it up," she said. "We're listening. People keep saying we're not, but we are."

Councilman Chris Monzel, a leading critic of the English Woods plan, said it's not enough. He will propose next week that the city create a separate account for the federal money so the city can use it as a "bargaining tool" with the housing authority.


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