HUD, Barbour Under Fire for Diverting Money from Poor | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

HUD, Barbour Under Fire for Diverting Money from Poor

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HUD allowed Gov. Haley Barbour to divert $600 million from low-incoming housing for Katrina victims into a pet port project.

Mississippi organizations are suing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for allowing Gov. Haley Barbour to divert nearly $600 million in federal funding away from affordable housing recovery after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and into a pet port project that Congress had refused earlier to fund with controversial earmarked money.

The Mississippi Conference of the NAACP and the Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center are taking HUD to task for allowing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to divert almost $600 million in money slated for the construction of moderately priced housing and rental units for a commercial port expansion project. Plaintiffs seek a declaration that HUD Secretary Steven C. Preston "was required to review and assess" whether or not the state's port expansion proposal met FHA guidelines and Community Development Block Grant's low-to-moderate income benefit requirements. They also seek a declaration that the HUD secretary violated his duties in approving the port plan and an injunction stopping the $570 million heading to the ports.

"Mississippi was required to demonstrate and certify … that the funds would be used to affirmatively further CDBG's fair housing mandate, and that at least 50 percent of the grant money would be used for activities that benefit low-to-moderate income households," the suit claims.

Congress appropriated $5.481 billion in emergency recovery funds to Mississippi in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The suit claims HUD acknowledged at the time that the primary purpose of the $5 billion was to address critical housing needs, not commercial development.

Fifty percent of the money was slated for 50 low- and moderate-income housing, but the suit claims HUD ultimately approved waivers of the requirement to the point where Barbour and the Mississippi Development Authority was allowed to drop the state's commitment to lower-income households from 50 percent to 13 percent, despite median households catching the brunt of the storm. Sixty-five percent of decimated properties in the coastal counties of Harrison, Hancock and Jackson that suffered storm-surge damage were medium- to low-income units, and 57 percent of units suffering flood damage in those areas were below the U.S. median household income level.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson pointed out that the hurricane damage was unfairly distributed along racial lines, because blacks and Latinos were much more likely to occupy the homes below the U.S. median household income level.

"Though the storm did not intentionally discriminate, the damage did reveal the impact of decades-long discrimination against poor, African American people who were already living in substandard housing," Johnson said in a statement. "For the first time in our state's history, we have the resources to right this wrong. It is a matter of priorities. Now is not the time to pull the carpet back over the ugly stain of segregation."

Congress appropriated the $5 billion in CDBG grant money for Mississippi the year Katrina struck in 2005. In 2006 it gave the state another $400 million. But Barbour and Mississippi Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran were pushing other projects in 2006. Barbour was gunning for big congressional money to expand the port, and worked in tandem with the Republican senators to move the CSX railroad further inland. Estimates put the railroad project at about $750 million, and—in the wake of Republican Alaska Ted Steven's infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" battle in the 2006 National Appropriations Bill—Congress began cutting sensational appropriations. Barbour's railroad and port consequently bit the dust.

In 2007, Barbour conceived the idea of salvaging the port expansion by diverting the $600 million from housing on the Gulf Coast.

Mississippi Center for Justice Attorney Reilly Morse said Barbour and the Mississippi Development Authority, a state agency that is a surrogate of the governor, essentially "wrote a check to itself."

"The MDA functions as oversight. It's a state-owned entity. The state port is a state-owned enterprise and MDA is, in a way, writing a check to itself, writing a check to an organization that it oversees. ... So the state is building itself back four times bigger and better than before while whole groups of people are getting zero; if you were wind-damaged and a homeowner, you get nothing. If you're a renter, you have to depend on landlords to rebuild, and landlords have to go through an excruciating process to rebuild, and that's going very, very slow."

HUD has not returned calls for response, and has declined comment on pending litigation to other news organizations. The agency did refer MSNBC reporters to a January 2008 letter to Barbour from former HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, saying the agency's hands were tied in approving the $600 million diversion.

"The Congressional language associated with these CDBG funds allows me little discretion and, therefore, the Mississippi Development Authority may reprogram the $600 million originally intended for the Homeowners Assistance Program to be used for the Port Restoration program," Jackson wrote.

The letter, however, addressed the governor's decision to appropriate an extra $100 million to housing, with Jackson saying he applauded the move because of anxiety he felt over the original $600 million diversion:

"Although economic development is important and the port expansion will create jobs and serve as a significant regional economic driver, I remain concerned that this expansion does indeed divert emergency federal funding from other more pressing recovery needs, most notably affordable housing," Jackson wrote. "To that end, I was pleased to learn that just last week you announced an additional $100 million to the reprogrammed to address the critical housing needs of low-and moderate-income households in the Gulf region of Mississippi.

PDF: HUD Complaint as filed (1.4 MB)

Previous Comments

ID
142252
Comment

Illinois has Blago; we have Barbour. Sigh.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-12T10:22:41-06:00
ID
142255
Comment

Oh please. There is absolutely no way you can compare this flap to Blago's SELLING OBAMA'S SENATE SEAT TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER.

Author
QB
Date
2008-12-12T12:59:53-06:00
ID
142257
Comment

I'm actually comparing the two. I'm saying they have both engaged in unconscionable behavior as governor. The Blago stuff is disgusting, and his career should be over. However, people who do not recognize that Barbour screwed over many state residents with this stunt are being blind partisans. It in no way negates Blago's stupidity, but there are more direct victims of Barbour's crime. I can say they are both cads, regardless of party. Can you say the same thing, Harry? Would you, or do you support the Republican no matter what? I suggest you examine your own blind devotion before you start questioning any of my opinions.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-12T13:59:35-06:00
ID
142258
Comment

Correct me on my math if I am wrong. A billion is 1000 million so the grant was for 5400 million subtract 600 million for the port and 750 million for the railroad so that leaves 4050 million or 4.05 billion to rebuild houses,apartments and low-to-moderate income housing on the coast? Isn't that meeting the requiement of 50% going to rebuilding housing? What's happen to that money? 4.05 billion should build 40,000 homes costing 100,000 each.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-12-12T14:00:37-06:00
ID
142261
Comment

Perhaps the Governor needs to re-read Robin Hood.

Author
justjess
Date
2008-12-12T14:27:10-06:00
ID
142262
Comment

... or the Bible his party pretends to own. From his office today: MEDIA ADVISORY CONTACT: Buddy Bynum (601) 576-2026 Laura Hipp (601) 576-2020 *For planning purposes only* DATE: December 12, 2008 GOVERNOR BARBOUR TO ANNOUNCE FUNDING IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING INITIATIVE (JACKSON, Mississippi) - Governor Haley Barbour; Anthony Topazi, chairman of the Gulf Coast Renaissance Corp.; and other officials will hold a press conference on Monday, December 15, 2008, to announce special funding in a major affordable housing initiative. The press conference is scheduled at 2 p.m. in the Governor's Press Room, 18th floor, Sillers Building, 550 High Street, Jackson, MS 39201. The press conference will be available for viewing live on the Web at www.governorbarbour.com. And, downloadable high-resolution photos from the press conference will be available by 3:30 p.m. at http://ljhutzler.zenfolio.com/p253263146. (Note that the Ledger's former legislative reporter, Laura Hipp, now works for Barbour. Guess that means she didn't write anything to piss him off too badly while at the Capitol, huh? That's three former Ledger reporters I know of who have recently gone to work in PR for a government agency.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-12T14:32:05-06:00
ID
142267
Comment

So that's where Laura Hipp went to! Now, we're starting to see Barbour's true stripes. I thought something fishy was going on when he diverted money to the Port of Gulfport. Now that he's a lame-duck governor, that gives him license to do almost whatever he wants. I hope the suit is successful.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-12-12T15:45:00-06:00
ID
142270
Comment

Bubba, this is from the PDF (which Adam is about to post): "Mississippi received received $5.481 billion in CDBG funding for hurricane disaster relief. COncerned about the continuing lack of affordable rental housing in the impacted areas, Congress directed that (only) $1 billion of the supplemental appropriation must be used to repair and reconstruct affordable rental housing stock."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-12T16:05:02-06:00
ID
142272
Comment

So what Barbour did was divert 600 million of the 1 billion Congress directed for housing?

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-12-12T17:34:53-06:00
ID
142273
Comment

Bubba, it's explained pretty well above!

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-12T17:58:39-06:00
ID
142274
Comment

Bubba, Mississippi received $5.4 billion in total recovery funds, $1 billion of which was to be used to repair and reconstruct affordable rental housing stock. HOWEVER, in total, 50 percent of the ALL the funds should have been directed to meet LMI requirements according to HUD's own directives. Even before Katrina, low-to-middle-income housing on the Coast was inadequate. The storm damaged 75 percent of what was there. Mississippi has consistently de-emphasized LMI housing needs. Read the suit to get all of the details, but some 15,000 people are still living in FEMA housing. The port, which was valued at $127.5 million before Katrina, received $50 million in damages, all of which was covered by insurance. In light of all that, Barbour's $600 million request to divert funds from LMI housing is "a blatant misuse" of the disaster funds.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2008-12-12T18:49:03-06:00
ID
142275
Comment

HOWEVER, in total, 50 percent of the ALL the funds should have been directed to meet LMI requirements according to HUD's own directives. Yes, and someone who cared about people getting out of trailers and back into housing down there would have allowed even more than the HUD-required 50 percent to go to rebuilding Katrina housing. This one won't be pretty for Barbour in the history books, even if too many people don't care right now.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-12T19:37:11-06:00
ID
142278
Comment

Sid Salter wrote his predictable cover-Barbour's-ass-at-all-costs column today, but he seems to be trying to throw more confusion into the conversation than anything else. Witness this muddle of numbers: The lawsuit contends the $600 million of the state's total $5.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds was diverted from housing programs in violation of requirements that at least 50 percent of HUD funds be spent on lower-income residents. But the Barbour administration has said that of the $5.4 billion in the federal Hurricane Katrina Recovery Package, $3.8 billion was dedicated to housing recovery, including almost $2 billion already disbursed to more than 27,000 households in the three coastal counties . Mississippi Development Authority spokesman Lee Youngblood has said that over $611 million of the $2 billion has already been given to low-to-moderate income homeowners and that another $700 million was being spent on low income housing construction. Now, re-read above. He also treats readers like they're idiots (in that special way that only the Ledger seems truly capable of) by telling us ... wait for it! ... that Coast residents need housing *and* jobs. You're kidding, Sid, we did not know that. We've also heard Barbour for years make excuses for anything he wants to do to help rich friends, corporations and lobbying clients while hurting the less-fortunate residents of Mississippi claim that it will "create jobs." You just can't use that as a catch-all excuse for not following the law. That era is over. That in no way changes the fact that Barbour re-allocated federal funds specifically directed to be used for low-income housing to a port project that he hadn't been able to get earmarks for. And your argument would be stronger if we weren't just now getting people out of trailers on the Coast. Come on. Put partisanship aside and be willing to question just a little bit. This one sounds like you're vying for Laura Hipp's new gig.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-14T10:34:30-06:00
ID
142279
Comment

And this statement by Sid is simply insulting and degrading to all the less-fortunate residents of the Coast who have had much less help recovering than Barbour's rich buddies and contract friends (including from elsewhere) who made so much money off Katrina: While Johnson's heart is in the right place, he shrugs off the fact that Katrina hit everyone on the Gulf Coast, rich and poor alike, and all suffered. (See Matt. 5:45.) Yes, all suffered. The question, for those who care, is who has recovered, and who has Barbour and his friends give top priority to? You can't hide the very apparent answer to that questions in Bible verses used in a cynical way to excuse efforts that hurt the poor of Mississippi. Good journalists (and citizens) comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable, not the other way around. The era of trickle-down lies has ended. BTW, it would be great to see the Ledger do a *real* story on housing on the Coast, letting the chips and the truth fall where they may. Not holding our breath, though.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-14T10:41:27-06:00
ID
142281
Comment

I don't know why everyone is upset! A snake is a snake and Barbour is the King of the Hog Nose Snakes of Mississippi. Barbour has manipulated contracts for family and friends on the Gulf Coast and ignore all the other counties in Mississippi that have been damaged by these storms. All you need to do is to look at the counties that have a high number of senior citizens and poor people and he has ignored them. The old saying is the poor get poorer and the rich get richer especially if they are related to Barbour. Barbour and the Hud officials that redirected this money and should be investigated and forced to resign their offices. I hope that JFP push this issue all the way to the White House. Barbour always tells us "Let's go walking Mississippi" We need to walk his behind and everyone else invovled in this conspiracy straight to PARCHMAN!!!!

Author
Hot Sauce
Date
2008-12-14T13:32:43-06:00
ID
142284
Comment

who knew our boss hogg look alike governor was a crook

Author
foreverlovelacy
Date
2008-12-14T21:09:19-06:00
ID
142285
Comment

Hot Sauce- What conspiracy? Barbour diverted the funds with HUD approval in Jan 08. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/01/25/katrina/main3754365.shtml While it was wrong for him to do, he did do it with the ok from HUD. They are suing HUD for letting him do it, not because he did something that was illegal.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-12-15T00:09:20-06:00
ID
142286
Comment

NAACP President Derrick Johnson pointed out that the hurricane damage was unfairly distributed along racial lines, LOL ... what a tool. So now the storm was racist? Look out Kanye! I guess god hates black people too. Who should sue for more equity in storm damage distribution?

Author
WMartin
Date
2008-12-15T08:22:07-06:00
ID
142287
Comment

Bubba T, yes he did recieve approval from HUD you have made a very valid point. Except! HUD, executives and directors were appointed by the Bush who is also close friends with Barbour. The last time I was down on the coast I did not see the poor people being able to open up businesses nor did I see them rebuilding their homes. What I did see Bubba T, were people still living in trailers and the big money people which I might add are associates of our govenor getting large contracts to repair the damage from Katrina. Don't be folled Bubba T, the issues is solely about padding the pockets of your political friends at the price of forcing fellow Mississippian to live in proverty. These people have suffered enough!!!

Author
Hot Sauce
Date
2008-12-15T08:26:35-06:00
ID
142288
Comment

One must put this in the human context: MPB aired a depressing story recemtly about tne significant number of poor residents who are suffering from mental illnesses and commtting suicide due in part to prolonged stress from substandard housing conditions. the republicans are supposed to be pro lifc, but it seems that they are only for the life of zygotes and fetuses. Screw you after you're born. How many people are going to kill themselves because of Blagojevich's corruption?

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-12-15T09:18:29-06:00
ID
142289
Comment

Wmartin, could you really believe that what Johnson said ment that the sorm was racist? This is truly a misread. I expect this twisting of the issues from some of the folks over at the CL. Sid Salter's column was laced with the facts of the case glossed over.

Author
justjess
Date
2008-12-15T10:24:14-06:00
ID
142290
Comment

I don't know how many people will kill themselves over political corruption but if anyone does I can't say I have much sympathy for them. What is wrong with our country that everyone is waiting on the government to bail them out? It has been good to see at least some mention of the Blagojevich scandal in these pages the silence about it has been deafening so far.

Author
WMartin
Date
2008-12-15T10:32:06-06:00
ID
142291
Comment

He called a storm unfair. I thought that was hilarious and telling about a mindset of victimization. It is the kinda thing you would expect in a right wing political cartoon. I wonder if everyone just believes they have to be a caricature to even be heard anymore?

Author
WMartin
Date
2008-12-15T10:45:46-06:00
ID
142293
Comment

Why does equivalence have to be drawn to the Blagojevich scandal to compare the scummy activities of Gov. Barbour? That's just a deflection from the core issue. Were Barbour's actions criminal? No, but they were pretty insensitive to the people who are hurting for housing on our coastline.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-12-15T11:08:16-06:00
ID
142294
Comment

It's not equivalence. But as Barbour supporters freak out over Blago, it is important to consider what our governor has been doing for a long time in this state without outrage. It's kind of the whole Bush-Clinton thing. I believed strongly that Clinton should have been impeached (and set up the country for the Bush mess that followed), but people also make a good point when they say that many people have died because of Bush's transgressions. That doesn't lessen Clinton's one bit, but it is a way to get people think about where we as a state and a nation put our priorities, and who we allow to get away with what, because he claims it's all about creating jobs. People needed out of those damn trailers sooner. And some have been poisoned as a result of living in them for too long.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-15T11:13:37-06:00
ID
142295
Comment

WMartin, stop trying to make Johnson sound like an idiot. It is interesting that you are not reporting anyother comments from the NAACP'charge against HUD or the insensitivity of Haley. This is typical political from some folks. Paint a black male as an idiot, you get some folks laughing and the rest is history. Don't you know that these are the attitudes and behaviors that keep MS on the bottom of every category. Must we stay in court to have people do what is right? Many people on the Coast and in New Orleans are ill from FEMA trailers that they continue to live in because the funds have not been fully provided. I don't understand how some folks will break their necks sending funds/relief to other countries during a disaster - Even places where they don't want funds from Americans. Will race always be a factor in keeping government from being fair and equitable?

Author
justjess
Date
2008-12-15T11:21:44-06:00
ID
142297
Comment

I am not reporting anything. I am only commenting on what he said and he did a fine job in making himself look like an idiot. He obviously needs no help from me. I think the rest of what you said has been done. I guess I could just parrot what everyone else says but how would that be interesting? How about instead of worrying about if the idiot is black or white or Republican or Democrat we just call the duck a duck and try to hold our supposed leaders to a higher standard.

Author
WMartin
Date
2008-12-15T11:30:57-06:00
ID
142298
Comment

Blacks and the poor in MS have always been victims. You do not need a "Right wing cartoon" to focus in on that one. I know that it is hard to even imagine the pain of others when the shoe is not on your foot. Let's not get this given started today.

Author
justjess
Date
2008-12-15T11:31:50-06:00
ID
142299
Comment

It should be OK to hold outselves to a higher standard, also. My challenge is to hear just one other thing that Derrick Johnson said. Better still, was his argument that of the "HURRICANE" being unfair to blacks/poor or was his argument based on the FACT that Barbour did exactly what the article stated he did?

Author
justjess
Date
2008-12-15T11:45:37-06:00
ID
142300
Comment

Well the problem is when people make stupid statements it's hard to take the rest of what comes after seriously. Me and some of my friends have a running joke about if someone says "iffin" anything they say after that will be disregarded. It's kinda like that.

Author
WMartin
Date
2008-12-15T11:52:41-06:00
ID
142304
Comment

SAD!

Author
justjess
Date
2008-12-15T13:38:06-06:00
ID
142305
Comment

Iffin you can't take a joke that is sad. LOL

Author
WMartin
Date
2008-12-15T13:50:00-06:00
ID
142315
Comment

It is small minded to obsess with a clear misstatement and say that delegitimizes concern for a situation that is clearly degrading our neighbors' physical and mental health. The hogoblin of small minds may forever haunt us.

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-12-15T21:51:56-06:00
ID
142323
Comment

Well maybe his misstatements should be more clear? Do you think that storm damage was distributed unfairly? Are we sure the storm didn't intentionally discriminate? I think the premise of his argument shows a foolish consistency of our leaders to talk around an issue with buzz words and hyperbole. There is your hobgoblin adored by small statesmen. It was a little comment to remark on what I thought was a curious turn of phrase. I didn't mean to start a whole thread on it. It has certainly gotten more attention already than it was worth.

Author
WMartin
Date
2008-12-16T09:40:03-06:00
ID
142326
Comment

WMartin wrote: He called a storm unfair. I thought that was hilarious and telling about a mindset of victimization. WMartin, are you talking about his remarks in the article just above? For one thing, the word "unfairly" was Adam's paraphrase leading to his quote, which was very clear to anyone reading it straight. You seem to be intentionally twisting what Derrick actually said. Obviously, the reaction to the storm, which as he said did not intentionally discriminate, has been discriminatory—whether under the guise of "creating jobs" before worrying about "re-housing everyone" or not. I repeat that part from the piece above so you don't have to scroll back up to read it: NAACP President Derrick Johnson pointed out that the hurricane damage was unfairly distributed along racial lines, because blacks and Latinos were much more likely to occupy the homes below the U.S. median household income level. “Though the storm did not intentionally discriminate, the damage did reveal the impact of decades-long discrimination against poor, African American people who were already living in substandard housing,” Johnson said in a statement. “For the first time in our state’s history, we have the resources to right this wrong. It is a matter of priorities. Now is not the time to pull the carpet back over the ugly stain of segregation.” It's truly difficult to see how anyone could fault Derrick for that statement. Good golly.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-16T10:34:22-06:00

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