In the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo, someone’s “got some ‘splaining to do,” because without it those of us on the outside looking in are never going to understand the thinking behind using federal HUD money to build a high-end senior citizens’ rental resort in the county.
As explained to this point, a private developer wants to use a loan of public money to help finance a rental housing community for senior citizens, one described by the developer as a resort, which it must be given the anticipated monthly rent of nearly $4,000 per unit.
Clearly this isn’t the sort of project most of us think of when HUD is mentioned.
The builder hopes to secure some $24 million in HUD loans, which will be added to about $6 million in private money, to make the $30 million project doable. The county’s support is necessary to make $5 million of the HUD money available through the state’s Department of Community Affairs.
Supposedly, the project qualifies for the HUD funds because it will create low- and moderate-income jobs; an estimated 150 full-time positions with target salaries of $40,000 to $57,000. That’s a lot of jobs for 18 acres worth of rental property.
To date, the county has done nothing more than agree to make a pre-application for the loan, and supposedly there is no financial risk to the county in any case.
But forget for a minute the county’s financial exposure, or lack thereof, and think about the project as a whole.
Tax money is tax money, regardless of whether the holder of the checking account is the county, the state or the federal govenment. A lack of financial obligation at the local level doesn’t necessarily make this an idea worth pursuing.
Why is public money needed for the project? Because private financial institutions apparently don’t want to back it. Shouldn’t that tell us something?
And what is the source of the HUD money? Why, the federal government of course, which is trillions of dollars in debt. Do we need to spend millions in borrowed federal dollars to build resort housing for high-income seniors? Isn’t this the sort of thinking that got the federal government in the financial bind it finds itself in now?
There are many senior living developments built with private funds. Why does this one need taxpayer support?
And, assuming for a minute the federal government actually did have a surplus in the taxpayers’ bank account, is a high-end resort for wealthy senior citizens really at the top of the HUD priority list?
Maybe there are good, logical answers to all of the questions circulating about the proposed HUD project, but until someone provides them in sufficient detail, county officials would be well advised to listen, not vote.