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End sought to housing program delays

February 21, 2001|By RICHARD MONTENEGRO, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The Calexico City Council is attempting to get to the bottom of delays and problems with a Calexico Housing Authority program that would allow residents of the Casas del Sol housing project to purchase the homes they rent from the authority.

Repeated complaints from some Housing Authority commissioners and residents of Casas del Sol regarding eight years of delays in getting the program going have drawn the council into the issue in recent weeks.

City Manager Rich Inman was directed by the council Tuesday night to get in touch with officials of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the federal agency that oversees and funds the program that would allow residents to purchase 50 Casas del Sol single-family homes.

If no contact can be made, the council agreed a special meeting will be set in which further efforts will be made to address the Housing Authority-administered program.


Housing Authority Commissioner Jesus Solano, speaking not as a commissioner but as a representative of the Casas del Sol residents, went before the council Tuesday to ask that the council make contact with HUD officials concerning the status of the program, known as the 5H program.

According to Solano, the Housing Authority recently received a letter saying the authority has until March 5 to answer problems with the program.

Solano said the main problem with the program appears to be Housing Authority Executive Director Lupita Rios' attempts to transfer funding from one HUD program to another, something she is not allowed to do under the 5H program.

Neither Rios nor any representative of the Housing Authority was at Tuesday's council meeting to clarify the nature of the problems.

Calexico City Councilman John Renison said, "I think we're in jeopardy of losing this program, at least that's my fear."

He added information provided to the council by Rios at a special council meeting two weeks ago to address the same issue has left Renison with questions.

"I do not have full confidence in the information provided at this point," Renison said.

Councilman Gilbert Grijalva said it the City Council's job to step in and right the situation.

"This issue's been going on for almost 10 years now," he said. "Most of these families could have halfway paid their mortgages by now."

Grijalva added a special meeting should be set and if the council can't solve the issue it should consider re-evaluating the appointments its members have made to the Housing Authority board.

In other city business, the council approved the second reading of an ordinance limiting the amount of sales floor space a retail store of 150,000 square feet or more can devote to non-taxable goods such as groceries. The ordinance, known as the "big box" ordinance, limits that sales floor space to 7.5 percent for non-taxable goods.

In a new turn of events, Renison changed his vote on the issue. Prior to Tuesday, all decisions the council had made on the ordinance had been unanimous.

Renison said the council members have their "hearts in the right place" but the ordinance sends the wrong kind of message to those looking to establish businesses in Calexico.

"I want to go on the record with opposing this tonight," he said.

In a non-agendized item, the council directed staff to send a letter to the Calexico Chronicle and its publisher, Steve Larsen, denouncing an editorial cartoon that ran in a recent edition of that newspaper.

Grijalva, Carrillo and other members of the council took exception with the cartoon's depiction of a "bandito" in illustrating the relationship between Mexicans and Americans at the recent NAFTASHO.

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