I am writing in response to an article in the March 2 Wednesday Journal, "Village to Fund Housing Authority Budget Shortfall."
The village board has recently agreed to subsidize the Oak Park Housing Authority's $150,000 budget shortfall, brought on by a freeze in federal funding, which would have led to the loss of financial support for 20-30 low-income Oak Park families. I applaud this short-term solution; well-founded concern exists, as to the long-term future of the village's affordable housing programs, because the federal government is not expected to increase its support of these programs in coming years.
In fact, the White House is seeking to drastically shrink the Department of Housing and Urban Development community branch. The 2006 Bush budget plans to cut Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) by as much as 50 percent. Why is this so alarming? Because with housing costs skyrocketing, the need for affordable housing has never been greater.
This loss of federal funding will be felt immediately by families in our community: The transitional housing units made available through such agencies as West Suburban P.A.D.S., Sarah's Inn and Vital Bridges, which have successfully facilitated the movement of the homeless to their own permanent homes, will be gone.
Oak Park must take a leadership role in forming alliances with other communities and the state of Illinois to address these funding issues. Affordable housing and homelessness must occupy a key place in the deliberations of the future village boards of Oak Park. The New Leadership Party is committed to maintaining economic diversity in our village. After the April 5 village board election, with new leadership in place, we can begin the process of seeking innovative and practical approaches that break new ground. Perhaps it is time to consider establishing an Affordable Housing Commission.
Our history is one of daring leadership in the area of housing and diversity; let's be true to that history now. I urge you to elect new leaders who will bring with them the creativity and will to make sure we maintain and adequately support this vision. Vote for the New Leadership Party (Bob Milstein, president; Geoff Baker, Martha Brock and Greg Marsey, trustees; Sharon Patchak-Layman, clerk) on April 5.