Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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February 18, 2012

Money starts to trickle in for Housing Authority debt

Goshen College pledges $28,000 to go toward GHA’s $571,000 HUD shortfall

GOSHEN — Goshen College officials have pledged $28,500 to the campaign to rescue the Goshen Housing Authority.

According to Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman, the college has made the largest pledge in a community drive to help solve a financial crisis at the housing agency. Other pledges are $571.05 from Trinity Lutheran Church, $1,500 from College Mennonite Church, and $1,000 from First Presbyterian Church. In addition, Kauffman said several City Council members have funds, some that exceed $500.

Kauffman has asked the Goshen City Council to give the housing authority $571,000 to be used to pay back the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds that should have been set aside in reserve. Those funds were not put into a reserve fund.

The consequence to the housing authority is that more than 100 Goshen families receiving HUD rental vouchers would be at risk of losing the rent support.

“I think it is heartening to see the community step up and help,” said Jason Lehman, chairman of the GHA board. “The housing authority seems to fill a need in our community that we often don’t see.”

Referring to the contribution from Goshen College, Lehman suggested that college officials may be sending a signal that the college is part of the community.

“It is not the same relationship as a landlord, but the college may realize they are part of the community,” Lehman said. “Regardless of their intentions, I am glad that they see it as important.”

An attempt to contact Goshen College officials about why they made the pledge was not successful.

Lehman suggested the housing vouchers not only help keep 300 families in homes, but if the average rent is $500 per month, that is $150,000 that is spent in the community.

The City Council approved on first reading earlier this month Kauffman’s request to use city rainy day funds to pay HUD on behalf of the housing authority. The second and third readings on the proposal are expected to occur during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“In response to calls for a socially compassionate and fiscally responsible solution, dozens of members of the community spoke up at the last council meeting, calling on leaders to find the money and protect voucher recipients from homelessness, most of whom are elderly, disabled or single mothers,” Kauffman said in a media release Friday.

The idea of a community fund drive to help the housing authority and reduce the amount needed from the rainy day fund was offered by Goshen certified public accountant Jonathon Wieand. He suggested that if 1,000 people in the community wrote checks for $571.05, the full amount would be raised.

In the news release council member Jeremy Stutsman and Kauffman suggested monthly payments be made to the GHA, instead of a single payment. Also, Stutsman wants frequent reports from the GHA and all donations, insurance policies, and any potentially court-ordered repayments due to past fund mismanagement, be paid to the city’s Rainy Day Fund.

“This isn’t my first choice for how to use the fund,” Stutsman said, “but I see the importance of working together to save both housing and a group that puts $1.5 million into our local economy, especially in these economic times.”

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