The Lake Worth CRA Consortium applied for and received $23,237,500 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Redevelopment (HUD) on January 14, 2010. This funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and is better known as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Funding will be primarily used to purchase, rehabilitate and demolish foreclosed homes within the City of Lake Worth. Some funding will also be available to provide homebuyer counseling, "green" maintenance, financing and subsidy programs for working class individuals. The Consortium consists of 20 community based organizations and local companies.
One thing that we know for sure, the CRA must spend all of this grant money within the allotted time or they will lose the money. A lot of good things can come from this grant.
- We have to spend 50% ($11,618,750.00) of our grant by February 11, 2012
- We have to spend 100% ( $23,237,500.00) of our grant by February 11, 2013
- We have spent 25% ($5,726,495) as of September 19, 2011
The public showed up en masse again, rallied for the purpose to persuade the P&Z that anything built in that area is better than nothing at all. Some were even close to being insolent about it. The P&Z, and rightfully so, was concerned about townhouses in general. The simple fact is hundreds of units that have been built in our city are empty, in foreclosure and are bringing down the values of nearby residences. When Cara Jennings recalled the mistake on The Lucerne, she got dissed by the audience. But Jennings is correct and taking a responsible approach.
My first impression of this was that some developer who had some plans for 3,000 s.f. townhouses had discovered/found sucker Lake Worth with a CRA that has a lot of money...a place that he could perhaps dump his project with the idea that they would be artist studios--studios on first levels and living arrangements upstairs. How convenient for him. He would get his money and get out. They looked like cookie cutters all in a row. In fact, 50 years ago, this type of housing was called Row Houses. The first ones I ever saw were in Philadelphia. I had never seen anything like it and hated them on sight. I was used to beautiful single family houses that all looked different.
The biggest question I had in my mind was, how would a poor artist afford a 3,000 s.f. townhouse? The developer, as well as Joan Oliva, Director of the CRA, could not even give an answer as to what someone would have to pay for one of these...not even a guess. No clue. The average working person can not afford a 3,000 s.f. house nor would many of them even want one. And these are being built for poor people.
How do they even know that anyone would buy one? The setbacks don't look that favorable and it appears to have way too much impervious surface. One thing we don't want are just more townhouses for townhouses sake with them eventually sitting empty causing more slum and blight. The roofs will be flat and we will end up seeing many people sitting on their roof tops, drying laundry no doubt. Instead of 20 immigrants living in one, these will be so big that you can probably get quadrupled occupancy. The deed restriction will have a 15 year restriction.
The P&Z Board did the right thing last night. Just because the CRA is in a rush doesn't mean that they should be.