OHIO BUDGET Cutting housing programs concerns advocates

The governor's plan would help one program and hurt three others, critics say.
COLUMBUS -- Advocates for affordable housing and the homeless say they're pleased a key fund that provides state housing assistance would have a stable source of money in Gov. Bob Taft's proposed two-year state budget.
But they're concerned about the elimination of other housing programs for the homeless and emergency shelters they say are part of crucial safety-net services for low-income Ohioans.
Bill Faith, executive director for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, and other affordable housing advocates said Thursday they're asking for funding to be restored in Taft's two-year, $49.1 billion budget for three programs that help emergency shelters and transitional housing.
The Republican Taft's two-year executive budget pending before the Legislature proposes to fund the Housing Trust Fund by doubling a fee paid by people at county recorders' offices for administrative costs.
That fee averages $15.38 per transaction, housing advocates said.
The fee increase is expected to generate about $80 million over the two years for the fund.
Keeping it affordable
The trust fund, created in 1991, has helped programs such as building affordable housing and helping first-time homebuyers with down-payment assistance.
But the governor's budget also proposes to eliminate state funding for three programs that housing advocates say are key: the Emergency Shelter Grant, Traditional Housing for the Homeless and the CDC Grant Program that provides funding for community development corporations.
In the current two-year, $44 billion budget that expires in June, the three programs total $13.8 million.
Housing advocates say they fear what will happen if those programs are cut.
Rose Ann Braniff with Jefferson County Mental Health in eastern Ohio said elimination of the funding would be devastating to those who depend on the funding.
"If they take away the emergency shelter grants, we wouldn't have a place to put people while we are assessing their needs," said Braniff.
One state official said he believes it'll be difficult to do all the housing advocates want given the state faces a deficit in the next budget of as much as $4 billion.

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