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Archive for Tuesday, July 14, 1992

BUDGET HOLDS PLAN TOP REVAMP CITY OFFICES ON HOUSING

July 14, 1992

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The city department charged with maintaining and improving the quality of community buildings and neighborhoods will get a facelift itself in 1993.

Tucked into City Manager Mike Wildgen's proposed 1993 city budget is a suggestion to change the name of the city's Community Development department to Housing and City Development.

Wildgen also recommends hiring a part-time housing coordinator, at $15,000 a year, to push recent city commission plans to provide more affordable housing, especially for the city's low-income residents.

The name change reflects the evolving responsibilities of the Community Development department, Wildgen said.

"I just think that in `Community Development department' there was too much emphasis on the Community Development Block Grants," said Wildgen, referring to the federal aid program begun in the 1970s.

"For a number of years, the department has had other aspects, like code enforcement. And I think there now is an additional emphasis on housing," he said.

THE DEPARTMENT would have three divisions: code enforcement, Community Development Block Grant administration, and housing. Responsibilities of current department workers would not change under the new title.

The part-time housing coordinator would follow up on the commission's goals, set this spring, for providing more affordable housing plans in Lawrence.

The goals include pursuing federal and state housing grants, coordinating the efforts of the various city agencies that deal with housing, and working with local financial institutions to devise ways to aid prospective home owners.

"We haven't sat down yet and defined exactly what the person is doing," Wildgen said.

The salary for the coordinator would run about $15,000, Wildgen said. The position would be filled sometime in 1993.

LAWRENCE City Commissioner Shirley Martin-Smith, who has spearheaded commission initiatives to meet housing needs, said she was very excited by the prospect of hiring a coordinator.

"There is probably no question that Community Development is already maxed in its work," she said. "This position allows for additional focus on housing."

The part-time position wouldn't be enough to tackle all affordable housing problems, Wildgen said, but "it's a help."

"It's 20 hours more than we're working on it now," he said. "A person who has has the knowledge and willingness can do a lot in 20 hours."

"It isn't enough, but I also don't advocate jumping in with a full-time position when we aren't sure what the responsibilities will be," said Martin-Smith. "It's enough for now, and I think it's more than the public expected."

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