Saturday, December 01, 2007

Mayor Bergson vetoes council’s nix of the Housing Investment Fund

Mayor Herb Bergson says that he doesn’t understand why people who are traditionally conservative and more business oriented don’t see the $1.46 million Housing Investment Fund (HIF) as good for Duluth’s economy.
On Wednesday, Nov. 21 Bergson held a press conference to announce his veto of the city council’s decision to nix the funding for HIF.
Bergson quoted statistics from the City’s Community Development Division which show HIF has invested $1.46 million into eleven different projects, leveraging an additional $42.8 million in construction funding which created 334 housing units, 27 full-time jobs and 479 construction jobs.
The HIF money was taken out of the Community Investment Trust fund, a pool of revenues from the Fond-du-Luth Casino the city used primarily for infrastructure projects such as street maintenance.
Mayor Herb Bergson has vetoed Council Resolution 07-0653R, which eliminates new funding for the Housing Investment Fund.
The resolution passed 6-1 with
two councilors not present at the November 13 meeting of the Duluth City Council. “It is surprising to me that after seeing the demonstrated benefits of funding low and moderate income housing projects, we are still having this discussion,” Mayor Bergson said. “The benefits both to our local economy both in terms of construction jobs and outside investment in Duluth, not to mention the obvious benefit of providing good housing to people who need it, are there for everyone to see.”
The resolution called for $656,758 to remain in the fund for the discharge of obligations to Neighborhood Housing Services, Spirit Valley Citizens Neighborhood Development (SVCND) and the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO), but directed any remaining money in the fund to be returned to the Community Investment Trust (CIT).
“We are having a needed discussion on what services the City of Duluth can and should provide,” the mayor added. “But the quality of the projects we’ve already seen leads me to believe that this funding should stay as it is. It’s an important part of our community growth and just as important, it’s a way to help people who frankly deserve an opportunity. We talk all the time about wanting to make Duluth a better place to live. Here is a way to do that through a fund that does good work for real people. We shouldn’t be talking about closing it down.”
At-Large city councilor Jim Stauber said the money from the Fond du Lac Casino is earmarked for street improvements. He said,“Right now the city has a plethora of available homes and rentals units.” He said that the funds compete with construction businesses for all income levels of homes, not just the low income.