- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department on Thursday awarded roughly $135 million in stimulus money to five states for low-income housing, including many projects left unfinished in the recession.

The money is part of a $3 billion program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will go to Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Washington.

Iowa will receive $72 million; Maine, $4 million; New Hampshire, $10 million; Rhode Island, $ 36 million; and Washington, $11 million.

The states will swap the cash for tax credits related to low-income housing, then give the money to developers.

State officials said few investors remain interested in tax credits because their profits have plummeted in the recession, so financing packages can no longer be put together.

Jo-Ann Ryan of the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation said all of the money will go toward completing 300 unfinished homes.

“All of them are stalled,” she said. “This is huge.”

Maine will use $2.3 million of the money to renovate a 1980’s housing project in Augusta for low-income seniors and families, said Dan Simpson of the state’s housing authority.

Treasury officials said they also awarded the money to improve record unemployment and help the housing industry, in which the start of construction on homes has plummeted by 80 percent since 2006 and the number of homes under construction is at a 13-year low.

The construction industry as a result has lost roughly 30 percent of it jobs. And the cost of low-income housing has sharply increased since the recession began in December 2007, the agency also said.

“This initiative will help to spur construction and development, create much needed jobs, and increase the availability of affordable housing for families around the country,” Treasury Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin said.

This is the second round of awards based on a rolling-application process. And more announces are expected in the coming weeks.

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