Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

HUD doesn't use 'blight scoring system' to allocate grants

The question for the candidates was simple: What can St. Petersburg's mayor do to improve severely depressed housing values in Midtown?

Mayor Bill Foster and challenger Rick Kriseman both talked about chasing grants to improve the struggling area, which stretches from Second Avenue N to 30th Avenue S and Fourth Street to 34th Street.

Kriseman credited Tampa for successfully raking in federal dollars for "affordable housing initiatives." Foster said Tampa gets more because "they probably need the money more."

"Tampa got more money because they scored higher on the blight scoring system, so they've got a much bigger problem than we do," Foster said.

Intrigued by Foster's claim, we decided to investigate how the cities compare in terms of a "blight scoring system" and if Tampa indeed is worse off when compared with St. Petersburg.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awards billions of dollars in grants to cities, counties and states each year. Some of the awards are known as "entitlement grants," based on formulas. Others are competitive, based on who has the best plan.

In a brief chat, Foster clarified he was talking about a dollar disparity when considering an array of housing and urban improvement grants.

"I tasked my housing department to advise me on how Tampa is getting grant monies that we are coming for," he said. "Their response was, it's based upon a scoring system, and Tampa qualified because they had more issues."

Problem is, a "blight scoring system" does not really exist. A HUD spokesman was perplexed by Foster's comment, saying there's no easy comparative analysis for "blight" between Tampa and St. Petersburg or other cities for that matter.

But for certain grants, cities get the money based on formulas that take into account an area's population, poverty and, in some cases, foreclosure picture.

Foster had city officials answer our follow-ups. Joshua Johnson, director of the housing department, directed us to fiscal year 2012-13 allocations for Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG. Tampa received $2.8 million and St. Petersburg got $1.6 million.

The formula for CDBGs is based on a mix of measures, including population, housing overcrowding, and the extent of residents living in poverty. Tampa exceeds St. Petersburg in all three of those measures, according to HUD data.

Normally, Johnson said, if a city has more people, it also has more people who earn lower incomes. According to 2012 Census estimates, Tampa had 347,645 residents, and St. Petersburg had 246,541. Tampa also had a greater share of residents below the poverty level, at 19.2 percent compared with 15.3 percent in St. Petersburg.

Foster was trying to articulate that HUD looks at the age and condition of a city's housing stock when considering how to award certain money, and "clearly if you're going to look at those two factors, blight is part of that," said Clarence Scott, city leisure and community services administrator.

For instance, the city of St. Petersburg conducted a blight study of the city's Southside area in pushing to declare it a Community Redevelopment Area. The purpose of that study was just to prove the city is deserving, not to compare it to other places. Similarly, Tampa conducted a blight study in 2006 of the Central Park/Ybor neighborhood that later received the Choice Neighborhoods grant.

In 2008, Congress authorized HUD under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act to start the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which provides grants that help states and local governments rehab, resell or demolish foreclosed or abandoned homes. More money was dedicated to the program in the 2009 stimulus package and the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking reforms.

Tampa and St. Petersburg each received money for the first and third phases of the program, and Tampa got more — $18.3 million compared with St. Petersburg's $13.2 million. The Tampa Housing Authority received a second, competitive grant of $38 million that the city shared to build low-income housing. St. Petersburg tried to win a second-round grant, but was not chosen. This program distributes money based on the number of home foreclosures, the number of homes financed by a subprime mortgage loan and the number of homes in default.

"Perhaps Foster is simply noting, albeit awkwardly, that you can't fault him for failing to bring in HUD dollars that are based on formulae for which blight and poverty characteristics are key variables," said Elizabeth Strom, a University of South Florida urban planning professor. "But I am not aware of any 'blight scoring system' that would be used across programs."

We rate Foster's claim Mostly False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com/florida.

Comments
2.4 million Floridians expected to travel for Fourth of July

2.4 million Floridians expected to travel for Fourth of July

Summer has officially started and so have summer travel plans. About 2.4 million Floridians are expected to travel for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, up 6.3 percent from last year, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group."We are already seeing a b...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Taylor Morrison builds in Wesley Chapel

Taylor Morrison builds in Wesley Chapel

Taylor Morrison will build a new subdivision off of Boyette Road between Wesley Chapel Boulevard and Overpass Road.The builder and developer recently broke ground on Chapel Chase, set on approximately 40 acres just north of New Tampa in Pasco County....
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the groups behind Ulele and the Armature Works — are heading to court over an old city building that sits between the hit eateries.Both want to redevelop the city’s former office of cable communications ...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Top 5 at noon: Is Chronister the right man at the right time?; Luke Bryan chats ahead of his Tampa show; and more

Top 5 at noon: Is Chronister the right man at the right time?; Luke Bryan chats ahead of his Tampa show; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.NEW SHERIFF WON OVER THOSE IN POWER. THE VOTERS? THEY DON’T GET A SAYRepublican Chad Chronister was appointed Hillsborough’s top cop after 26 years with the office. Is he the right man at the ...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Grain and Berry Cafe to bring its healthy menu to USF area

Grain and Berry Cafe to bring its healthy menu to USF area

Grain & Berry Cafe opened in Palm Harbor, and now the healthy eatery is rapidly expanding throughout the Tampa Bay area.The healthy eatery opened a new location on E Fowler Ave near the University of South Florida in May, just 10 months after opening...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Weeki Wachee man arrested after search warrant turns up drugs, thousands of vape cartridges

Weeki Wachee man arrested after search warrant turns up drugs, thousands of vape cartridges

A Weeki Wachee man faces drug charges after deputies said a search of his home Wednesday turned up nearly three pounds of marijuana, more than three pounds of hashish wax and more than 3,000 hashish oil cartridges for vape pens.Devin Alexander Volkes...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Rick Stroud isn't buying an ESPN radio report that any suspension levied against Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston by the NFL would stem from Winston's failure to report an alleged incident between him and a female Ub...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

TAMPA — When the 2008 financial crash brought down the nation’s housing market, hundreds of home builders went out of business. Among them was Sharon McSwain Homes in Atlanta, forced to liquidate in 2009.But just as developers like to develop, builde...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

ST. PETERSBURG — Three police lieutenants falsified records about where they were during work hours, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department — a severe violation of ethics for three leaders on the agency’s day shift.The lieutenants claimed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago