Earlier this week, the Washington Post ran a series of articles alleging widespread failures in the federal HOME program administered by HUD and hundreds of local and state government agencies. The articles claim that hundreds of projects have died, millions of dollars have been wasted and that HUD and local housing agencies have failed to protect the taxpayer's money.
The articles certainly uncover some distressing stories and clearly HUD and our local housing agencies need to do a better job. The story also underscores the importance of providing non profit developers with support, oversight and capacity building services - especially during challenging economic times like these.
However, the Washington Post articles do the country a dis-service by grossly exaggerating the problems and failing to put the small number of problem projects in the context of the one million homes developed by this program over the years. Even Adrian Gonzalez strikes out occassionally and we cannot expect a federal program with thousands of projects underway across the entire country to never have any problems - especially during the worst real estate market since the Great Depression.
Perhaps the most glaring error is the claim that 1 in 7 HOME projects are delayed when in fact less than 2.5% are delayed, and most of those have either been resumed or are delayed due to market conditions. This is not a minor mistake. Check out HUD's response to the Post for more factual errors in the article.
By failing to get its facts right and by failing to put the problems in the context of the overall track record of the program, Post demonstrates either laziness or a desire to create a scandal where none exists. It is unfortunate that the Post seems eager to jump on the "government is broken" bandwagon, especially when articles like this will create real harm for struggling families and communities.
MACDC staff and leaders will be joining with our NACEDA colleagues to take this message to Congress during our annual NACEDA Summit this week. Let's hope our elected representatives take the time to look at the facts and not just the headlines.