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Housing project residents seek end to eight-year delay

February 08, 2001|By RICHARD MONTENEGRO, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Delays in a Calexico Housing Authority program that would allow residents of the Casas Del Sol housing project to buy their homes has caused considerable bad blood between some authority commissioners and staff and residents of the project.

On Wednesday night, a special Calexico City Council meeting was called to be a forum at which both sides could be heard.

A faction of residents from Casas Del Sol as well as members of the Housing Authority Resident Council backed by Housing Authority Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Solano squared off against Housing Authority Executive Director Lupita Rios and board Chairman John Romo.

Solano claims issues of non-compliance with the federal program that would allow residents to purchase the homes they now rent, as well as not getting the proper resident participation needed for the program, are causing unnecessary delays.

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Rios said there has been compliance and the program is wending its way through the proper channels. Additionally, she said there have been delays because certain deficiencies in the program have to be addressed and are being addressed.

For eight years, the Housing Authority has been working through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to enact a program that would allow the 50 single-family homes in the Casas Del Sol project to be sold to residents for well below market rate, with the difference picked up by the Housing Authority through a federal subsidy.

In late 1998, the plan was to sell the homes for $60,000 to $65,000.

First attempted in the form of the HOPE 1 program, HUD has since retooled the program into something called the 5H program.

Solano and members of the resident council are at odds with Rios and Romo over the delays, saying it has been eight years of waiting.

Calexico City Councilman Victor Carrillo agreed the program should get done. He said it is the wish of every person to own their own home and such a program would facilitate that.

Carrillo added the city Redevelopment Agency has been successful in starting its first-time home-buyers' program that has thus far put some 250 Calexico families into their first homes.

Romo said he applauds the city's program, although there are issues the council doesn't know about that have delayed the 5H program.

Rios said one of the main sticking points in not getting the program done is the ability to replace those 50 homes sold to the residents.

She while selling those homes to the residents would be a good thing, taking those 50 homes out of circulation would not be providing any help to other Housing Authority residents.

Rios indicated funding for a housing replacement program needs to be in place for the 5H program to be a success.

At several points in Wednesday's meeting, the discussion delved into personnel issues, with Solano and Resident Council members criticizing fellow commissioners and Rios.

Housing Authority legal counselor Steve Walker addressed the City Council, saying it really should disregard much of what it was hearing because much of the discussion had to do with internal Housing Authority issues.

He added the City Council has no say over the Housing Authority, which is an autonomous political body.

City Councilman John Renison said the City Council is the ultimate authority because it was put in place by the voters to hear and address concerns of its constituents.

He said the Housing Authority was created by the city and its commissioners, who govern the authority, are appointed by the City Council.

Little progress was made at Wednesday's meeting other than a promise by Romo to better inform the residents of the Housing Authority and specifically Casas Del Sol about the progress of the 5H program.

Romo added he would make sure the City Council was kept informed, too.

Wednesday's meeting was called after members of the City Council, specifically Mayor Javier Alatorre, were criticized for not listening to the residents of Casas Del Sol.

Staff Writer Richard Montenegro can be reached at 337-3453.

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