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Our Opinion: Help the dream

February 14, 2001

For many, purchasing a home is the American dream. For the 50 residents of Calexico's Casas Del Sol housing project, it's a dream on which they've been waiting for eight long years.

Since the early '90s the Calexico Housing Authority has been working on a federal program aimed at allowing the residents of Casas Del Sol to purchase the homes they rent from the authority. Under the program, funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would subsidize the residents' purchases, allowing the single-family homes to be bought dirt cheap; $60,000 to $65,000 each, according to program figures from 1998.

We support such a plan. Property ownership is the right and privilege of every American. It not only instills a sense of pride in the self, but it fills the purchaser with community pride knowing they have made a commitment to stay in a city and be part of something larger. Property owners also are much more likely to keep good care and improve properties than renters.

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That being said, we understand there have been problems in making this program a reality. Born as the HOPE 1 program, HUD has since changed a number of the program's tenets and has renamed it the 5H program. Delays arising from that are understandable, with a new name to the program likely came new regulations and requirements to which the Housing Authority had to adhere.

Still, other problems persist and, depending on who you ask, they are the fault of the Housing Authority or the bureaucratic red tape of the federal government.

One problem is the desire by the Housing Authority's executive director to get in place a companion program to the 5H that would facilitate the replacement of those 50 homes sold to the Casas Del Sol residents. Authority officials have said taking 50 homes out of rotation would damage the authority's ability to assist those in need.

That's all well and good. There should be more units in the city of Calexico that would help the scores of residents that can't afford suitable housing. At the same time, the residents of Casas Del Sol are tired of waiting and that, too, is understandable.

The Calexico Housing Authority needs to find a way to get this program done, plain and simple.

Those living in Casas Del Sol and anybody familiar with the goings on of the Housing Authority and its board know there is significant infighting. Poised on one side is the authority executive director and the voting majority of the Housing Authority board, which supports her, and on the other side is the minority of the board and the residents of Casas Del Sol.

A lot of that fighting seems to be political and personal in nature and doesn't appear to be helping anyone involved. The bigger picture alludes to that — the Housing Authority, its board and its director are in place to benefit the community and those residents served by the authority.

All the fighting and divisiveness needs to stop, and the 5H program needs to get done. If this infighting is hurting the Housing Authority's chances of making the 5H a go, than the members of the City Council, who appoint to the Housing Authority board, need to reconsider their appointments.

The residents of Casas Del Sol do not need to suffer because of the whims of those Housing Authority board members and its executive director. They deserve to be the victors, not the victims.

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