Monday, September 21, 2015

Some Insight On How Your Hard Earned Tax Payer Dollars Are Spent

What's Happening In Roanoke Regarding The Government And Real Estate?

 Maybe someone will read this and get some ideas on how to efficiently spend the money we give them. No one I know cares about our hard earned tax money spent to help people that REALLY NEED help. The government taking anything beyond that is theft. See my review of the 75 page document below.

Roanoke City Council Meeting September 21st 2015.

Acceptance and Appropriation of funds. This entire city council agenda is a good example of how the Federal Government taxes a tremendous amount of what you earn and turns around and gives it back conditionally to your local governments. Back when Abe Lincoln was president, federal taxation was 5% of what a person earned. And the Federal Government was only for united military protection against foreign invasion.

Our tax rate now is significantly higher. Below is an example of how the Federal Government was able to force every state and locality in the country to abide by what they want them to do. This is how we lost our state sovereignty. Or in other words how the states lost their ability to make their own laws. They tax the citizens of every state. If the locality is behaving and following what they wish for them to do, they can get some of that money back. If they don’t behave, their citizens will continue to pay the extraordinarily high tax rate but they won’t let them have any of the money.

1. Department of Fire Programs gets additional funding of $307,532. This funding appears to be from the Federal Government TO the State TO Roanoke.

2. The Federal, US Department of Justice gives funding to the city for bulletproof vests via a grant for the police and sheriffs departments. As long as they follow the terms, provisions and conditions of the Federal Government, they aren’t required to match any funding. They will be getting a 100% funded grant of $17,102.

3. The Department of Justice gives grant money $40,172 to the city for the bicycle patrol program. The Sheriffs department gets $26,782 for in car video systems. Again, there is no local match required as long as they follow the conditions of the Federal Government.

4. The Department of Motor Vehicles gives grant money tho the city to target people driving while intoxicated. This grant is for $21,440 and there is a cash match of $1,518 and an in-kind match of $10,720. It seems like the city only has to pay the smaller $1,518 amount they aren’t clear in the agenda as they refer to another city council meeting where they discussed all in kind matches.

5. The DMV gives grant money to the police for targeting pedestrian bicycle safety. This grant is $3,200 and requires a match of $1,600. They will use it for overtime pay for traffic enforcement.

6. The DMV gives money to go after speeding drivers. There is a cash match of $6,720 for this grant of $13,440.

7. The DMV gives grant money to the police for “occupant protection”. Most of these grants will be used for overtime pay. This one is $11,200. There is a cash match of $5,600 that they may not have to pay.

Here’s where the big money gets spent:

8. City approves a 2014-2015 annual evaluation report on the cities federal housing and urban development (HUD) funded programs. They are required to prepare a report that summarizes how they spent the Federal tax payers money.
The city reports that it is finishing up it’s spending on the West End Target Area. They have primarily increased population density by building many new houses rather than focusing the HUD grant money on fixing up the houses that are there.

The city now has transitioned to the Melrose Orange corridor for their next 4 to 5 year target area. They get roughly 2.2 to 2.5 million dollars from HUD every year to spend on low income areas. This money is required to be spent on various areas that are related to housing. This money is primarily Robin Hood money taking in the form of taxation from productive working individuals and giving it to non working unproductive individuals.

They have now started the 13th street infrastructure project which they say will benefit the West End. This is the final step in the revitalization of the West End. The 2.2 million has been spent in this area for the past 5 years. The previous 5 years prior to this they also spent it on South West Roanoke. That money was used in the Hurt Park neighborhood right next to the West End.

To give you an idea where this is, the West End is the Patterson, Chapman, Campbell area and Hurt Park is the Salem Ave, Rorer area.

They have demolished significantly more houses than they planned on during each year of the grant money to the West End. They have also built quite a few more houses than they planned on. Previously when they were spending in Hurt Park they focused their money on building Government housing.

In the West End area they give money to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to buy ugly houses and tear down the house. The property is purchased at the city tax sale and by other means. They often pay 10 to 20K or more for the house and then they tear it down which costs an additional 10K. They then build a house that matches the neighborhood style for over 200K so they have a ballpark of 250K into the house. They then find a homeowner such as a Refugee or an English as a second language family and obtain financing for them with pre-made deals with banks to buy that property for around 150K. Banks have federal guidelines to make a certain number of loans such as this. The new owner gets bamboozled because they think they are buying a property that is worth 150k…….. but when they can’t make their mortgage payment anymore they find that they can’t sell their way out of the contract because the house isn’t worth more than 50 to 60K. It’s a big Loose Loose for all.

Rehabbing existing houses would be a more efficient and cost effective way to spend the tax payers money.  It would also help get the blight out of the neighborhood and help turn it back around. An extensive rehab to flip quality that compares to the neighborhood standard costs roughly 25K on a couple thousand square foot house. Purchasing the property for 10 to 20K and then rehabbing it adding another 25K to the purchase price puts the new homeowner in a situation where they can have a little equity in the property. The total cost in the property would be no more than 50K and organizations like Habitat for Humanity get lots of donated labor and materials so it would be much less than that.

In this better scenario, the city wins by getting the neighborhood fixed up and increasing their tax assessed values across the board. The neighborhood as a whole wins as each and every homeowners property will be more valuable. The buyer wins by not getting suckered into a loan that is much higher than the true value of the property. The bank wins because the buyer will be able to make the mortgage payments as they will be much lower and easier for them to afford. And the tax payer wins because ALL of the money is returned once the bank loan is made and it can now be used to fix up another. With a rehab strategy in mind, the same tax payer money will be able to be used over and over.

Unfortunately the board members of Habitat for Humanity locally are real estate novices and are doing nothing more than playing with the tax payers money. They are essentially playing their first game of Monopoly and their currant strategy is not the strategy any business minded person would take.

The city also used the HUD money on programs that give these special hand selected people money for a downpayment on the houses that Habitat built, or other homes in the city. They also spent money on homelessness prevention and other homeless needs, public infrastructure needs, and free rehabilitation of owner occupied housing. They plan on spending more money this year in the target area on code enforcement, new homeownership and these free downpayment 1st time homebuyer programs.

Another interesting fact that shows racism is alive and well in Roanoke. They get into some of the details of specifically how they spent this money. 65.4% of people in Roanoke City are white caucasians. The city has a very large population of whites below the poverty level. 29.0% of the population are identified as black or African American. The city used the HUD money to assist 219 black or African Americans. And 177 white’s or caucasians.

Participating organizations that have used the HUD money are:
- Habitat for Humanity who’s focus is on building new houses and getting downpayment assistance and financing for selected people. Habitat reports as to being successful in focusing on Refugees and English as a Second Language populations for their new homes and free downpayment to buy them programs. This clearly shouldn’t be a factor in determining eligibility for the assistance.
Homeless Assistance Team (HAT) has a focus on rapid rehousing of homeless
Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority has a focus on their Section 8 program and public housing.
Community Resources Division with this HUD funding reviews city strategic plans and seeks out opportunities for input into restrictive policies and procedures. These restrictive policies and procedures can be in all areas of the government including zoning, code enforcement, eligibility to assistance programs, etc. In 2006 the city significantly reduced affordable housing when they rezoned everything and restricted multi-family housing to very small pockets throughout the city. This was just prior to their building of several massive low income public housing units that they personally control. They have worked diligently to put low income individuals in small contained areas throughout the city. This is a form of income segregation and has NOT been a focus of the Community Resources Division. The Community Resources Division also monitors the liens placed on the houses of every person that they give downpayment assistance to. These liens drop off after a few years of program compliance and the money they have been given becomes a gift rather than a loan.
Blue Ridge Independent Living Center used some of this HUD money to provide home modification services for low income disabled families. Building handicaped ramps and helping those who are truly in need is something that I don’t think anyone would have a problem with. The problems reside in the vast majority of this tax payer money that is wasted on bad programs. Some of this special grant money that the BRILC got was used by the city itself to outreach to underserved populations to encourage homeownership and responsible landlording. The responsible landlording consisted of hiring a lawyer to do a few landlord tenant act training seminars.
The city is required by HUD in acceptance of the funding to provide housing counseling to assist families to better plan for their finances which they say alone will improve their financial situation. Job training would be more effective.
The city also meets with the Social Services and public and private housing organizations such as Roanoke Regional Housing Network, Blue Ridge Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the Housing Partnership at the Fair Housing Board to provide training and certification to over 400 realtors per year giving them their annual credits required to keep their license. Otherwise a Realtor would have to pay for their own required continuing education training.
With this HUD money the city also supported the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority with it’s submission of the Choice Neighborhoods Grant which if they got it would have provided several hundred new low income housing units. It appears that the city is focused heavily on becoming the largest low income landlord that it has ever seen.
Some of this HUD money was also spent on giving neighborhood associations money to spend on projects such as sending their members on vacations to national or statewide neighborhood conferences, getting neighborhood signs and trash cans, building covered bus stops, providing bicycle servicing stations, etc.

This is just a small look into just a couple sources of funding that the city gets directly from the Federal Government. This DOJ, DMV and HUD money is given to cities and towns all over the country. The Federal Government has found it to be an effective method of stripping the sovereignty from the states and localities. The money from the DOJ and DMV are required primarily to be spent on Civil Obedience. The HUD funding is Robin Hood money.

Beyond the shocking information above, below are other line items in the agenda that shall be discussed.

2:00 PM Council Meeting ONLY.  The 7:00 PM Meeting has  been canceled as there are no public hearings. Call 853-2541 if interested in being on one of the city boards.

Building and Fire Code of Appeals - Two vacancies.

City of Roanoke Finance Board - One Vacancy

Economic Development Authority - One Vacancy. Brian Redd resigns as the citizen representative of the Roanoke Finance Board and as Director of the Economic Development Authority as a result of a job opportunity in Charlotte NC.

Human Services Advisory Board - Four Vacancies. Robin Haldiman resigns from the Human Services Advisory Board

Parks and Rec Advisory Board - One Partial Term

Towing Advisory Board - Three Vacancies

Nominations being accepted for citizen of the year as well.

They will hear a report of the qualifications of Stephen Willis as a member of the Roanoke Civic Center Commission for a 3 year term.


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