Sunday Editorials Slam OHTF Budget Proposal

Yesterday two Sunday editorials rejected the rationale behind the budget proposal to cut the Ohio Housing Trust Fund by 50 percent and send the funds to the counties. We couldn’t have said the following better ourselves.

Plain Dealer Editorial – June 21, 2015

Meanwhile, the Senate budget rewrite, incomprehensibly, would cut in half funding for Ohio’s widely respected Low- and Moderate-Income Housing Trust Fund. Supposed Senate aim: to help fund vaguely defined housing programs in Ohio’s 88 counties. Converting one effective agency to 89 underfunded mini-agencies makes no administrative sense – and reversing that brainstorm should be high on budget conferees’ agenda.

Akron Beacon Journal Editorial – June 21, 2015

Don’t mess with the success of the Housing Trust Fund

If you are looking for an example of good government, try the Ohio Housing Trust Fund. It stems from voters approving in 1990 a constitutional amendment making housing a public purpose. Since then, the fund has supported projects and programs across the state designed to aid the homeless and provide options for affordable housing. It has been skilled at forming private-public partnerships, leveraging as many as $9 for every $1 in state money.

And yet, for all of its outstanding work, without a hint of scandal, the fund now faces attack. A provision in the Senate version of the proposed two-year state budget would redistribute half of its annual funding, which is limited to no more than $50 million a year. The money would be routed to each of the 88 counties, where it would be devoted to “housing purposes.”

This a classic case of why fix something that isn’t broken. Only it is worse. Each county would have a separate office, adding layers to the bureaucracy, the responsibility left more often than not with officials lacking housing knowledge and experience.

Why propose such a careless step? County recorders long have grumbled about the funding mechanism. In 2003, state lawmakers created a dedicated stream of revenue, a housing trust fee, collected by recorders (in Summit County, the fiscal officer) and then routed to the fund. No surprise that some county officials would prefer to keep the money, and they evidently have an ally in Keith Faber, the Senate president, who has taken aim at the fund in the past.

What those lawmakers participating in the budget conference committee should keep in mind is the solid record of the Housing Trust Fund. A 14-member advisory board oversees its operation. The fund awards money on a competitive basis. The law requires that the money benefit those with the greatest need, portions devoted, for instance, to programs for the homeless and projects aimed at people with incomes at 35 percent of the median level or below.

Consider the impact in Summit County. The past year, the fund has helped with emergency home repairs for seniors, including improved accessibility. It has invested in the Robinson neighborhood through the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corp. H.M. Life Opportunities received a grant to help with transitional housing and services for the homeless with children.

These are just a few examples of the effectiveness of the Housing Trust Fund. It is lean, 5 percent or less of its resources going to administration, and responsive, half of its funding targeted by law to rural areas. This is a program that works well, with little, if anything, suggesting county officials would perform better. When the final budget lands on the governor’s desk, this misguided provision should be left behind. And if somehow it remains in the spending plan, John Kasich surely will recognize language ready for his veto pen.

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