Saturday, August 30, 2003

Rental program freeze sought

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati City Manager Valerie Lemmie recommended Friday that the city not process any more applications for its Rental Rehabilitation program until new monitoring procedures are in place.

Ineffective screening and monitoring of projects meant to improve low-income housing and apartments has led to the loss of federal dollars, city officials said.

"The bottom line is we failed as a city in the 1990s to do this program effectively," said Councilman David Pepper. Freezing the program would not affect projects already agreed to, Pepper said.

Earlier, city officials announced that internal auditors would review the Department of Community Development and Planning after a series of embarrassing development debacles. A recent WCPO-TV (Channel 9) investigation of the Glengate Apartments in Pleasant Ridge led to the review of all programs in the department.

Glengate Apartments went into foreclosure. The city put $548,000 into the property in 1993.

The city manager made several other recommendations including:

•  Updating the Rental Rehabilitation program procedures manual to include a formal applicant review and analysis of project applications, establishing a minimum owner investment requirement and random tenant file review.

•  Instituting a loan review committee immediately to review all new and pending applications.

•  Developing a scoring system for submitted applications to reflect the priorities identified in the Department of Community Development and Planning's annual work plan.

•  Clarifying and tightening response times internally and with the Law Department to address noncompliant and defaulted projects more efficiently and reducing further decline in property condition.

•  Evaluating whether the program should be reshaped as a revolving loan fund, with repayment required.

Council will review the Rental Rehabilitation program report and recommendations at 3 p.m. Wednesday.


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