At a hearing today of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Senator Evan Bayh strongly rebuked the nation's top federal housing official for his department's decision to deny critical federal funding to the city of Gary to help raze abandoned and blighted homes.
"It's terrible," Bayh told U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. "These are people without means, the city is struggling. These aren't rich people. They're not contributors. They're folks who need a helping hand to make a go of it. As I think you know, there were no funds--zero--for the city of Gary in the second wave of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program."
The city of Gary had requested $24 million in demolition funds under HUD's Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) to help reduce crime and begin to revitalize the city's downtown. Indiana received zero federal dollars under the program in HUD's latest round of funding.
NSP is the federal program established to stabilize communities that have suffered from property foreclosures and abandonments. In 2010, HUD officials awarded $1.93 billion to 28 states and the District of Columbia under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Of those funds, $365 million was given to national non-profits to help municipalities administer neighborhood stabilization projects. No non-profits have been awarded any federal funds to assist Gary with building demolition.
In a series of pointed questions, Bayh told Secretary Donovan, "This is your opportunity to tell the people of Gary why they weren't good enough."
Donovan responded by highlighting $2 million of "reallocated" existing funds previously awarded to Gary as the first steps in funding its housing demolition projects.
"There are thousands of hard-pressed people in Gary who really aren't getting the helping hand they deserve," Bayh told Secretary Donovan. "When you walk down the streets of Gary, Indiana, and see the blight that exists there, $2 million isn't going to get the job done. The people of Gary have a right to feel like they've been hung out to dry."
Senator Bayh is scheduled to meet privately with Secretary Donovan next week to discuss other ways to fund Gary's demolition and revitalization efforts.