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July 15, 2008

Council begins housing inquiry

The Metro Council’s oversight committee on government accountability and audit is expected Monday to begin an investigation into some $19.5 million in federal housing grants that have gone unclaimed in Louisville over the past 13 years. 

The unclaimed grant money — which came in the form of numerous small grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — was discovered last month, during council hearings on the city budget. 

Councilman Kelly Downard, R-16, said Tuesday that the committee he co-chairs has spoken with HUD officials, who are working with the city to locate some of the missing money. Downard said they would either testify before the committee or, perhaps more likely, respond to written questions submitted by members down the line. 

Expected to be addressed over the coming weeks is whether the former city and county governments were properly handling grant money. A staffer with Mayor Abramson’s administration has said that the grants could not be properly merged when the two governments did in 2003; Downard said a former county government employee with knowledge of the system would testify that county grants were in order at the time of merger. 

As well, Downard said it is unclear whether financial penalties assessed when recipients of city housing loans sold their homes before a required period were processed and recorded properly by Metro government. 

“It demands inquiry,” he said, adding that the administration has been cooperative in providing information up to this point. The Abramson administration has said it has already been working with HUD to reconcile the unclaimed grants. 

The committee is also preparing an investigation of the Downtown Development Corporation, an appointed body that currently gets an annual appropriation of $750,000 — rent paid to the city by Slugger Field. The council has no oversight over that money or DDC, which Downard chaired for three years during the 1990s. 

Downard said he’s considering forming separate subcommittees to deal specifically with the issues, and added that both are bipartisan efforts.

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