The big news out of Washington yesterday was the passage
of a far-reaching housing rescue bill by the House. While President
Bush initially opposed a section of the bill that would appropriate
nearly $4 billion in grants for local governments to buy and refurbish
The big news out of Washington yesterday was the passage of a far-reaching housing rescue bill by the House. While President Bush initially opposed a section of the bill that would appropriate nearly $4 billion in grants for local governments to buy and refurbish foreclosed properties, he eventually relented, clearing the way for the bill's passage. But 149 congressional Republicans, many citing the rehab funds as a major sticking point, voted nay.
Among this group was 6th District Rep. Peter Roskam, who explained that he opposed the bill out of the fear that Gov. Rod Blagojevich will have too much control over the federally-funded Illinois projects. "Do you want Rod Blagojevich to be your landlord?" Roskam asked in a statement released by his campaign last night.
But how much control will Blagojevich actually have? As it turns out, not very much.
The $3.9 billion earmarked for the purchase and rehabilitation of foreclosed properties in communities hit particularly hard by foreclosure will be distributed through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). Administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), CDBG's work like this: for metropolitan cities with populations of at least 50,000, known in HUD terminology as "entitlement communities," local governments apply directly to the federal government and then develop their own programs and funding priorities. Communities with a population of less than 50,000 -- which would include various suburbs in DuPage County -- apply for what is known as a "State Administered CDBG."
Essentially, once a state decides it wants to participate in the program, it solicits applications from local government authorities. State officials then decide how to distribute funds among communities in non-entitlement areas and ensure that recipient communities comply with applicable state and federal laws and requirements, but they have no hand in running the programs. That responsibility rests on local officials, who must "consider local needs ... and carry out the funded community development activities." While the state can accept some administrative and technical assistance expenses, they may not exceed three percent of the total allocation.
In short, Rod and his cohorts in Springfield are responsible for
distributing funds to small communities based on a comprehensive
application process created by the federal government. But it is those
local governments -- not the state -- that will purchase and manage the
properties in question.
To be sure, this housing bill is not a perfect piece of legislation. The provision using taxpayer dollars to rescue Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae shareholders -- and without implementing limits on executive compensation -- is nothing more than a massive corporate bailout for unwise investors. But Roskam raises none of those legitimate critiques.
Instead, he attempts to criticize Blagojevich, Bush, and congressional Democrats in one fell swoop through a vapid statement that doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. In doing so, he shows either a basic misunderstanding of the bill or a severe distrust of local Illinois governments to address the foreclosure crisis in their communities, which is only getting worse with each passing day.