Unintended consequences ruin a good program

July 1, 2013 

Leave it to Congress to mess up a successful HUD program. For nine years Belleville High School District 201 and the nonprofit Belleville Community Development Corp. have worked together to build homes in Belleville with HUD funding. It's a beautiful partnership. Students at Belleville East and West got valuable experience in the construction trades, the city got new homes to fill empty lots, and low-income residents got the opportunity to own a new house at a below-market price.

Then the rules changed. Now, houses built with HUD funds must sell within six months or become rental property. Supposedly this change is to "improve the performance of participating jurisdictions and to improve project selection."

But the rule isn't improving anything in Belleville; it is putting a good program out of business. Understandably, the school district and the Belleville CDC do not want to risk becoming a landlord if a house doesn't sell fast enough.

Couldn't HUD make an exception for a program that has operated effectively for almost a decade? If we're going to spend tax dollars building houses, this is the kind of program that's ideal to do it. But the cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach of this law won't allow an exception, according to HUD. It only took six months for HUD to respond to a question about that.

Rep. Bill Enyart and Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, are you reading this? Why not modify the rule so this worthwhile program doesn't go away?

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