Utah housing agencies say federal funds are too little, too late
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Thursday that Utah's 11 housing authorities will receive more than $2.2 million to make large-scale improvements to public housing units throughout the state.
However, the state's two largest Housing Authorities say the awards are too little, too late.
According to HUD, the yearly capital fund grants are part of $1.7 billion distributed nationwide to about 3,100 public housing agencies, based on the number, types and ages of existing units within the communities.
For more than seven decades, the federal government has invested billions of dollars in public and multi-family housing. In spite of this infusion, approximately 10,000 public housing units disappear each year due mostly to disrepair, the statement said.
A 2011 HUD study, "Capital Needs in the Public Housing Program," found that the nation's 1.2 million public housing units needed about $25.6 billion in major repairs such as roof replacements, plumbing and electrical upgrades.
Terry Feveryear, executive director of the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City, said her agency is pleased with its $647,429 award, but notification of the 2013 funding is several months overdue.
The amount decreased slightly from previous years due to the sale of some units five years ago, Feveryear said.
Housing authorities have two years to obligate the new funds and two more years to spend them, Feveryear said. Her agency has five-, 10- and 15-year plans for repairs and upgrades to its public housing stock that includes City Plaza, Phillips Plaza, Rendon Terrace and Romney Plaza.
City Plaza, the oldest of the four structures, is jointly owned by the housing authorities of Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City. It has several structural deficiencies concrete structure repair and elevator replacements are now needed, Feveryear said.
Kerry Bate, executive director of the Salt Lake County Housing Authority, painted a more dire picture, calling the $647,334 his agency is receiving "a considerable shortfall" compared to a decade ago when it received over $1 million.
"It's about $45,000 less than we expected," Bate said of the 2013 award, blaming sequestration for part of the shrinkage. Taking inflation into account, Bate said the financial situation has become "so serious that we're wondering if we can continue to manage public housing into the future."
Salt Lake County's Housing Authority owns 626 public housing units contained in two large properties and several smaller projects throughout the county.
Bate blasted congressional gridlock that blocked a recent HUD-funding bill from coming up for a House vote and failing to pass the 60-vote threshold for Senate action.
"I've never seen anything as dysfunctional as what's going on in Washington right now," Bate said.
Housing authority grant recipients
Beaver • $16,692
Carbon County • $151,430
Davis Community • $173,343
Emery County • $29,658
Ogden • $210,115
Provo • $289,599
St. George • $30,885
Salt Lake City • $647,429
Salt Lake County • $647,334
Tooele County • $26,520
West Valley City • $22,968
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development