- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

ROANOKE Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, has granted the Virginia Housing Development Authority $90 million in state bonding authority that is likely to lower lending rates for needy home buyers.
"Housing is an issue that doesn't always receive the attention it deserves," Mr. Warner said Thursday. "We're pushing people farther and farther from their jobs to get affordable housing."
Mr. Warner, speaking to 750 people at the 2002 Virginia Housing Conference, said the money should be used for housing resources, community revitalization and projects that link housing to employment centers and social services.
"It'll help us help more people and offer better rates," said Susan Dewey, the authority's executive director.
The self-supporting agency was established in 1972 to assist borrowers of limited means. Through fiscal year 2000, authority officials said it financed 119,286 homes representing $7.69 billion and 66,772 rental units representing $2.17 billion.
Mr. Warner, the first governor to attend the annual conference since 1995, used the occasion to list a number of housing-policy initiatives.
The governor said he asked the Virginia Housing Commission to determine whether the authority should have the power to deal with fair-housing complaints on its own.
"Many of those offenses will still end up in court," said William C. Shelton, an authority board member and director of the Department of Housing and Community Development.
But allowing the agency to try to resolve the problems will expedite the process, Mr. Shelton added. "Many times, the individual making the complaint gives up. If you have to wait 18 months until your housing problems get resolved, you've moved on already.
Mr. Warner said he opposed the so-called ten-year rule, a federal law that prohibits state agencies from financing additional loans with payments from existing ones. The authority estimates that the restriction will keep $1 billion in potential loans from reaching needy homeowners during the next three years.
And Mr. Warner called again for the repeal of the family rule, which prohibits homosexual couples from applying for housing loans.
Virginia is the only state to have such a family restriction. In January, the authority declined to change the family rule and instead considered a proposal to allow loans for the disabled and elderly, as well as single parents or custodians of children.
Miss Dewey said the board has decided to wait to approve any change in the family rule until the General Assembly votes on legislation that would make the family rule a state law. Delegate Ryan T. McDougle's bill passed the House of Delegates this year.
"Basically, we're waiting to see what the Senate does," Mr. Dewey said.
Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls would not say whether the governor plans to veto the bill if the General Assembly passes it.
"You're taking a hypothetical that the bill will make it out of committee," she said.
Mr. Warner also announced the appointment Terri Ceaser of Hopewell, who benefits from Section 8 housing loans, to the authority's board.

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