Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
The Irving City Council approved allocating about $850,000 in housing federal dollars to a tenant based rental assistance program at a special meeting.
The Council voted unanimously to earmark the Housing and Urban Development funds for the program after City Council representatives at a meeting on Oct. 17 voiced disapproval of a recommendation to spend the HOME Investment Partnership Program money to buy and renovate an apartment building.
Facing a deadline to allocate the money by Oct. 31, the Council called a special meeting on Oct. 22. Council members Rose Cannaday and Roy Santoscoy did not attend.
Under the rental assistance program, renters who are below 50 percent of the area median income, which is about $35,000 for a family of four, will be eligible for short term assistance.
The program would primarily target seniors and disabled citizens and help about 100 people pay for rent, utilities and moving expenses.
“We would help that population in the short term, so they can find some other solution, such as Section 8 vouchers,” said Vicki Ebner, assistant director for the City’s Housing and Human Services department, referring to a program that allows residents to use a voucher to help pay for rent.
“The public will have a chance to comment on the rental assistance program during a 30-day citizen participation period.”
Implementation of the program could start as early as Jan. 1.
The Council had to approve the funds before Oct. 31 or else the Department of Housing and Urban Development could take back the money. The Council first considered where the funding should go at the Oct. 17 regular Council meeting, where Chris Hooper, director of the City’s Housing and Human Services department, asked Council to consider buying an 11-unit apartment building at 618 N. Rogers with the HOME funds.
About $545,000 would have gone toward buying the building and another $265,000 would have been used to improve the property. Monthly, the City would have generated about $2,200 in net income.
Council members, however, weren’t impressed and said they were worried about becoming an apartment owner.
“We don’t need to get into the apartment rental business,” Councilman Joe Putnam said. “Competing with the private sector is nothing that I approve of. I think we got our backs against the wall and need to spend the money and this is what we got.”