Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Housing Answers Sought Meeting Puts Focus on Help from U.S

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Housing Answers Sought Meeting Puts Focus on Help from U.S

Article excerpt

With summer's end just a few weeks off and thousands of flood-damaged homes scattered across Missouri, St. Louis area officials said Friday that they need answers soon on how federal money can be used to find permanent shelter.

"It's going to get cold in another 30 days and we don't have a lot of time," Michael Klein, social services director for the Salvation Army in St. Louis, warned at a Midwestern flood summit that focused on housing.

"We've got the money," he said. "Let's figure out how to spend it."

Klein and James O'Loughlin, St. Charles County director of administration, expressed concern over the $125 million in federal grants that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros handed out Thursday to officials from nine flood-stricken states. Among other things, there is confusion over how the money can be used - if at all - for buyouts of flooded homes whose owners lacked federal flood insurance.

Cisneros said Thursday he may have to ask Congress to clarify that.

Moreover, Terry Martin of the Missouri Economic Development Department said his agency can't begin divvying up the state government's initial $28.6 million HUD share until Missouri learns whether other federal agencies will pay the full tab to clean up flood-damaged roads, sewers and other public facilities.

If they don't, Martin said, the state may have to use some of its HUD money on cleanup, thus reducing the amount for local housing.

This is of great concern to St. Charles County and many other flood-affected locales that must wait to see how much Missouri gives them from its $28.6 million allotment. In contrast, St. Louis, St. Louis County and the city of St. Charles got direct grants from HUD. Areas with large populations and certain levels of low-income residents qualify for direct grants under general HUD rules.

O'Loughlin said St. Charles County has about 1,500 families in unincorporated areas whose residences are likely to be condemned because of flood damage. He said 412 families lived in three low-lying trailer parks that the county hopes can be bought out and rebuilt on higher ground.

"We're visiting with the (trailer park owners) next week and we hope to convince them to move pretty quickly," he said. …

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