Lehigh County Commissioners delay proposal to end affordable housing program
WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 24, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — Lehigh County Commissioners are holding off on a proposal to potentially eliminate a trust fund program that helps pay for affordable housing projects.
Commissioner Thomas Creighton has proposed a bill to end the program, which charges an $11.50 fee each on mortgages and deeds.
That money, which is expected to total between $200,000 and $300,000 this year, would then go toward new housing and subsidizing rent for the disabled or those with low income, among other uses.
Creighton has questioned whether the program is truly effective, and whether county government should be involved in affordable housing altogether.
“I feel this fee is a tax,” he said. “I feel it’s a hidden tax on everyone who buys a property or registers a mortgage, and I just question why we’re trying to do affordable housing.”
Commissioners were originally expected to hold a first reading on Creighton’s bill today, then hold a final vote on Feb. 6 on whether to end the Lehigh County Affordable Housing Fund.
But Creighton asked to table the bill to allow for a later public hearing, in which members of the community can express their thoughts, and the county can present data and statistics about the program.That hearing has not yet been scheduled, but it may not be held until July, which would coincide with the new priority-based budgeting process the county is implementing.
Cindy Feinberg, county director of community and economic development, said she was surprised the bill was proposed because her office received no inquiries about the program.
“I didn’t get one question, one email, or one concern about anything we put together,” Feinberg said. “I really do think you need to learn more about this and understand a little more about why it’s important to the community.”
The program generated $271,197 in 2012, slightly lower than the $538,803 it generated in 2006 at its peak. A total of $6.5 million has been generated since 1996, according to county data.
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To read an earlier report on this issue, click here.
By Colin McEvoy,
Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania