A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Fighting poverty: Albany has a plan

Written July 4th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

Independence Day is as good a time as any to consider Albany’s government-funded program to fight poverty. The city council did so last week when it adopted a five-year plan.

Plans like that always remind me of the old Soviet Union, which had five-year plans on everything. That the plans were never realized didn’t keep them from making more plans. It’s probably just a coincidence that our federal government requires cities to make five-year plans in order to receive federal anti-poverty funds.

Albany gets $410,906 a year as a “community development block grant” from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year it has $240,000 left over from previous grants for a total of $650,906. It plans to spend the money on a long list of activities intended to help people of low and moderate income.

Not all of it though. Some $80,000 is set aside for administration. To Councilman Mike Sykes, in a program to help the poor, spending nearly 20 percent of the annual allocation on administration seemed unreasonably high. But then, that’s the feds for you. The various components of the five-year plan before the council ran to 310 pages. Putting it all together probably chewed up a chunk of that administrative cost. (The council approved the plan 4-1, with Sykes voting no.)

There’s no doubt that Albany has plenty of poverty. A table in the plan says that according the American Community Survey, the poverty rate among Albany residents aged 18 to 64 topped 34 percent. It was just under 8 percent for people 65 and older.

Among whites in Albany who were not of Latino descent, the poverty rate was nearly 17 percent. But for people of Hispanic or Latino origin, the rate was 45 percent. If the survey is right, that’s a huge gap, and a challenge for the community to make the situation better.

There was also a great disparity in poverty rates between households that owned their homes (2.6 percent in poverty) and those that rented (nearly 43 percent).

Fixing all that, in addition to homelessness, hunger and other problems, is more than any small town can hope to achieve. But Albany is trying, as its “action plan” for 2018 shows.

Among many projects in the plan for this year is trying to help low- and moderate-income people buy a home. How many? “At least two,” the plan says. The budget for this project is $20,000.

There’s also a $45,000 project to acquire and clear a blighted property to make way for new affordable housing units. “At least one household will eventually be provided affordable housing,” it says in the plan.

Other parts of the program will reach more people, the city hopes. But you can see that fighting poverty this way is slow going.

The entire “2018-2022 Consolidated Plan” was printed as part of the council’s agenda last week. It starts at Page 265 of the agenda and if you’re up to it you can read it here. (hh)

10 responses to “Fighting poverty: Albany has a plan”

  1. HowlingCicada says:

    “””The entire “2018-2022 Consolidated Plan” was printed as part of the council’s agenda last week.”””

    Do you mean literally printed, as in dead trees and enormous waste? Or just published as a printable file as in your link?

    The only use I see for printing ANYTHING is to have archive copies which can survive disasters that might destroy all forms of electronic records, for longevity in the face of technical obsolescence, and as a last resort to overcome proprietary formats. All of these issues are being worked on by those who care about preservation. (Yes, it’s a big deal.)

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Yes. The agenda was nearly 600 pages of paper. City officials say they will try to avoid such long paper agendas henceforth.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      I said I would very gladly pay to have a printed copy for any/all meetings. I detest trying to read minutia on any computer screen (PC or phone). It is much easier for me to highlight & mark actual pages (which are recyclable) to bring to meetings.

  2. Laurie Bissonette says:

    Businesses have 5-year plans; schools have 5-year plans; 5-year plans are ubiquitous. Conflating them with the Soviet Union seems hyperbolic.

  3. Cheryl P says:

    What the hell people!?! Why do you are keeping voting these people back into office?!?

    So Albany got $411k -240k they didn’t spend – $80k for ‘admin’…that means they spent $91k (on what exactly).

    Now they have $651K – $80k for ‘admin’…leaving $571k and what…they plan to ‘help’ at least two people…get a house for $20k TOTAL?!? Then they are going to spend $45k on the property…which they will in turn sell to a developer for probably three times as much (which will undoubted go into the general fund as opposed to the program) to build affordable housing, yet it will only help ONE person obtain affordable housing?!?

    So $651k – $80k for ‘admin’ – $20k total to help at least two people buy a home – $45k to purchase land to sell to a developer to build affordable housing to provide said house to at least one person…that leaves $506k + the money they make on the sale of the land to the developer and…that’s it?

    You want to fight poverty? You want to help low-income people? Start with jobs and affordable housing. How about grants or zero interest loans to assist homeless folks in need of a hand UP with move-in costs?

    • Avid Reader says:

      Hear, Hear, Cheryl! My hat is off to you. You’re right. Get some affordable housing and jobs and help people be able to have the money to rent an apartment in affordable housing. Poor people no longer can afford the taxes and upkeep on a home. So, get rid of the council and get some people who are “with the real world.”

    • Marilyn Smith says:

      The $240,000 carried over from last year is already allocated but not completely spent. It is being used for housing rehabilitation ($25-30,000 per house); homeowner down payment assistance ($10,000 per household); small business start-up grants; and buying property with dwellings that need to be rehabbed or space for building a new home. The administrative overhead includes salary and benefits for the planner who manages the block grant program, fair housing education and outreach activities, translation services, advertising and publishing costs, and training. The City Council heard an explanation of the grant program at its meeting on June 13, 2018. The video of that meeting is on the City of Albany channel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=fVxzrxTRFhA

  4. Judy Bralley says:

    Other cities have accomplished what we are trying to do and they have done it creatively and effectively. Let’s learn from a successful project we believe will work in our community and set about it. If Wendy can build a Carousel then the good people of our city government can surely figure this out.

    Let’s address hunger, shelter and jobs then set about assisting in mental health access, dental care, health care, etc. A skills list from the affected population might find people capable of building tiny homes for one or two.

    Great presidents have created projects to keep American’s working. I surely would love to see that kind of response from Albany now that we have some money to make change.

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    LBJ’s “War on Poverty” has been in business for over 50 years and spent in excess of $22,000,000,000,000.

    LBJ said at the time, “For the first time in our history, it is possible to conquer poverty.” In other words, look to government to win this war.

    So what went wrong?

    If you haven’t already figured it out, inadequate government handouts are not the answer.

    • H. R. Richner says:

      Thank you, Gordon, for pointing out the fundamental problem . How did that federal program ever get past the Tenth Amendment? What sleazy idea: send us your tax money and we give it back to you with the strings attached that, among other things, also destroy the family!


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