Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ghiz, Monzel against vacant housing bill

Cincinnati City Council voted 7-2 on a resolution to support a House bill that would grant cities money to demolish vacant housing, with only Councilmembers Leslie Ghiz and Chris Monzel opposed.

H.R. 3498, also known as the Neighborhood Reclamation and Revitalization Program Act, was introduced by Representative Brian Higgins (D-NY) last September and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity.

A similar bill, S. 2054, was introduced by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) ten days later.

If passed, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would be authorized to appropriate $100 million over three years to communities facing population and job loss and an overabundance of vacant housing.

The grants, which would be disbursed in addition to current HUD awards, would require municipalities to work together with local groups to develop a revitalization strategy for the newly-vacant property.

On her website, Ghiz says that she stands for "cleaning up blight to restore vibrant, safe neighborhoods". Last month, Monzel cited the "broken windows theory" when introducing a motion to have the City conduct a garbage can census.

However, both have been generally averse to increased spending.

Rep. Higgins, whose district includes western New York, introduced the bill after several fires broke out vacant buildings in Buffalo, one of which seriously injured a firefighter.

The injury brought to light just how overextended public responders had become due to these properties and led the City of Buffalo to unveil a five-year, $100 million plan to demolish 5,000 vacant houses.

Neither the House version nor the Senate version of the bill has been scheduled for debate.