Debate over stimulus funding for affordable housing


BINGHAMTON, NY – While city and county leaders have recently announced plans to dedicate portions of their federal stimulus funding to housing needs in our area, affordable housing advocates argue that the amount is not nearly enough.

Mayor Rich David announced yesterday that the city is setting aside 6 million of the 46 million dollars Binghamton received directly from the feds to dedicate to affordable housing projects.

David says he plans to work with a variety of non-profit partners to leverage additional private, state and federal funds to create more safe and affordable living spaces for the city’s poor.

The Mayor says that while critics have a lot to say, they’re not the ones creating the housing.

“We work with the actual organizations themselves. Not the special interest groups, not individual residents or others that really play no role in making affordable housing or homeless housing projects a reality, but the actual non-profit organizations,” says David.

Rebecca Rathmell is a former member of the local Homeless Coalition and currently part of a new group called Stakeholders of Broome County.

She says the recommendations of local housing advocates are routinely ignored and that traditional funding methods do not create nearly enough units to address the growing need.

And she’s outraged that the county would dedicate 2 million dollars to the redevelopment of the former IBM Country Club without requiring that it be used for affordable housing.

“Homelessness is a housing issue. We have a deficit of over 35 hundred extremely low income affordable apartments in the city of Binghamton alone, and we need to build that stock. Not only do we not have the quality of safe affordable housing, we don’t have the stock to actually meet local needs of those facing homelessness right now,” says Rathmell.

Rathmell says all 350 beds in shelters locally are routinely filled so the crisis is acute.

Salka Valerio is a Community Organizer with Citizen Action.

She says the fact that the City of Binghamton is using American Rescue Plan funds to fix the City Hall roof shows how misplaced their priorities are.

“Now, you’re prioritizing that when there are a whole bunch of brown and black folks here in Broome County are homeless and facing evictions at the end of this month. I just think the city priorities are not in the right place, and we should be prioritizing our housing needs, and we need to do to lift people from poverty,” says Valerio.

President Biden just extends the federal eviction moratorium by another 2 months, but that delay will inevitably come to an end.

Mayor David says there are a lot of interest groups demanding federal stimulus funding and that the City is doing its best to put the money to its best use.

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