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VAC is a California consortium of 10 cities-Chino, Claremont, La Verne, Montclair, Ontario, Pomona, San Dimas, Upland, Walnut, and West Covina-situated partly in a two-county area-Los Angeles and San Bernardino—as a joint-powers entity, and it was formed specifically to overcome its then areawide problems of boarded-up, vacant, and abandoned housing as identified in August of 1974.
A year ago, we developed the goal of reducing the HUD inventory of Secretary-owned single-family units from 800 to 200 by December 30, 1975. As of this date, we have exceeded that goal by our combination, reduction, and prevention program funded by HUD's 6701" funds and Department of Labor's "CĒTA” manpower funds. Also during this same period, we have facilitated the reduction of the VA abandonment inventory from 200 to 40.
However, I must indicate that in Pomona we still have 799 boarded-up vacant units belonging to VA-or formerly HUD—and a substantial number of them belong to private lenders. Part of the problem on the VA and HUD resales is that the occupancy doesn't occur immediately, and there are some problems we have identified with VA and HUD performing on a very rapid basis appraisals necessary so that these homes may be subsequently insured and
guaranteed and occupied by families that wish to purchase them.
Our success story, which relates to this reduction from 800 to 200 and from 200 to 40, respectively for HUD and VA, is contained in our award-winning “Mayors’ Abandoned Housing Report” (Received award certificate from American Institute of Planners in 1974 for being an outstanding example of intermunicipal cooperation to deal creatively with the problems of abandoned housing], and we have recently completed a report entitled “Causes, Consequences, and Solutions to Abandoned Housing Report” of which complementary copies are here intended for your study.
Specifically, in reviewing S. 1988, I wish to make the following observations:
One: The definitions for single-family and multifamily abandoned housing are consistent with our observed experience and what is reported in the current literature on abandonment.
Two: An alternative to the current array of solutions to abandoned housing is needed because HUD's and VA's property disposition resales programs may be committing and recycling the same errors in spite of the abandonment reductions which they have been accomplishing in the past 6 to 9 months, particularly in the Los Angeles area, and they have made significant reductions in their inventory, particularly in our area.
Three: The proposed corporation's redevelopment activities are contingent upon approval of the local governing body which is commendable consideration.
Four: Under this proposed legislation, the corporation should also include urban homesteading with a homeowners' counseling program as part of its disposition program, which is an excellent idea.
Five: That corporation-acquired properties requiring demolition should be converted, when appropriate, to park facilities. I don't think this is indicated.
Six: The proposed corporation should have its contracted homeowners' counseling program services provided only by local HUD
certified counseling agencies. No additional bureaucracy or technical guidelines need to be developed; they already exist.
Seven: That VAC agrees that housing abandonment is still the major housing problem in our urban and many suburban cities.
Eight: The proposed three metropolitan housing areas for the corporation's demonstration program should be Los Angeles, Detroit, and Pomona.
Nine: The time for abandonment to HUD resale is too long and requires an effective intermediary government-sponsored corporation to prevent the ravages of abandonment, and this is what we see your
Ten: The expense of abandonment to all public agencies and its contribution to the shortage of adequate housing is significant. We talk about shortage of housing. If we had all the current vacant houses occupied, we would be able to reduce that shortage quickly,
As is my practice, I have tried to keep my testimony brief and concise. I would be happy to answer any of your questions.
Thank you. [Statement/position paper follows:] (By Joseph F. Korpsak, Executive Officer, Valley Association of Cities)
VALLEY ASSOCIATION OF CITIES : THE MULTI-CITY ABANDONED
The following text was delivered before the "Issues in Federally Assisted Housing" panel during the Institute on Human Resources Development, sponsored by the California League of Cities in Oakland, California, on September 13, 1974. This exposition identifies the newest type of multi-city consortium which has been organized to overcome tne problems of abandoned housing in the Southern California area known as the Valley Association of Cities (VAC). VAC consists of the cities of Chino, Claremont, La Verne, Montclair, Ontario, Pomona, San Dima, Upland, Walnut and West Covina, which are located in the two-county area of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, and representing a resident population in excess of 360,000 persons.
In October 1973 the Mayor of Pomona, Ray Lepire, called together the cities around Pomona to join him in a meeting of neighboring mayors to discuss the situation of abandoned housing in what was to become the Valley Association of Cities (VAC) area. The initial meetings led to the exploring and documentation of the abandoned housing problem in the VAC area.
Subsequently a staff report was published entitled, “The Greater Pomona Valley Action Committee on Abandoned Housing”. This study detailed the abandoned housing problem wherein it was determined approximately 1,000 houses were vacant, boarded-up and abandoned in the Valley Association of Cities area. Approximately 700_of those homes belonged to federal agency known as Housing and Urban Development/Federal Housing Administration (HUD/FHA). This compared unfavorably witn the 7,000 HUD/FHA houses that were vacant in the entire County of Los Angeles and compared nation-wide to the 250,000 HUD/FHA abandoned houses.
Problems connected with abandoned housing showed that the neighborhoods suffered from general blight, lack of maintenance, vandalism, depression of property values, and conditions which were conducive to additional families abandoning their homes. The report made several recommendations, of which one was to establish a Valley Association of Cities (VAC) to tackle vigorously, actively, and politically the problem of abandoned housing in the VAC area. As a result of the report and its recommendations, the participating cities jointly formed together in a formal joint powers agreement for the purpose of reducing the number of abandoned houses in their individual cities.
The funding of the organization, known as VAC, came from grants from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor, and the State of California. VAC is structured to accomplish the following goals: (1) to reduce the number of abandoned houses in the VAC area from the current level of approximately 1,000 to 200 by December 1976, and (2) to prevent further abandonment of single-family structures in the VAC area.
In order to accomplish these goals, VAC is staffed to perform the following functions: (1) to stimulate initially HUD/FHA to make available for sale its vacant, boarded-up, abandoned houses, (2) to provide default and delinquency home ownership counseling in order to prevent additional abandonment, (3) to conduct a study to determine why people abandoned their homes, (4) to institute a program of early warning and identification of potential abandonment-like conditions, (5) to monitor the maintenance cotractors' responsibilities: of HUD/FHA's agents responsible for these properties, namely the Area Management Brokers.
These programs are currently being undertaken by VAC with a great deal of initial success. This is indicated by the fact that during the previous 12 months ending July 15, 1974, only 30 HUD/FHA houses were available for resale, while during the last 60 days (July 16, 1974-September 13, 1974) approximately 250 HUD homes have been put up for sale and approximately 100 houses have been sold.
The VAC is governed by a Board of Directors which consists of City Council members from each of the participating cities. Meetings are held once a month to monitor the progress of VAC's objectives and to transmit information regarding the abandoned housing situation in the VAC area.
Currently the VAC is staffed by eight full-time staff members organized around the five previously identified functions to eliminate and prevent abandoned housing.
The relationship between the Valley Association of Cities and HUD is one of mutual exchange, communication, and a series of requests in order to have the effect of reducing and preventing abandoned housing in the VAC area. As a consequence of VAC's short time in operation it has been recognized by the American Institute of Planners in being awarded a state-wide California Chapter Award for dealing with the critical housing crisis and creation of a multicity organization to put into effect remedial programs related to abandoned housing and its prevention.
It is anticipated that with success by VAC in dealing with the problem of abandoned housing, that it will branch into other problem areas, such as unemployment, economic development, and area-wide outdoor recreation programs.
Additional information regarding this experiment in intergovernmental cooperation in order to tackle problems can be secured by contacting the Valley Association of Cities, located at 666 North Park Avenue, Pomona, California, 91768, or telephone (714) 623-4456.
Senator CRANSTON. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF HENRY B. DOTSON, SR., CONCERNED COMPTON
Mr. Dotson. I'm H. B. Dotson of Compton. I'm head of the Assistance Initiative Participation Coordination Commission of Compton, which was an outgrowth of the Crime Commission, and I'm very happy to have this opportunity to make this short statement to this committee and hope that it may have some impact.
According to the 1970 Census, the percentage of homeowners in Compton is above 50 percent. With the median age at 20.5, it is obvious that Compton has a young population with an earning capacity that has good potential for homeownership. This, of course, will be predicated upon the economic situation. It can also be foreseen that the occupancy time-span for these young people can be forecast at 10 to 15 years. S. 1988, if passed, will provide the kind of incentive that will generate homeownership as well as good home maintenance for those who need it most for growing families. Empty and boarded-up homes contribute to the early deterioration of any neighborhood or area regardless of the type of housing located in that area or neighborhood.
Abandoned houses provide places for criminal elements to meet, to store stolen property, and to execute the sale of dangerous drugs. They provide an open invitation to street prostitution, an invitation to firebugs, and always an open invitation to vandals and all aspects of vandalism. In addition, they present safety hazards for small children as well as health hazards as a result of their being breeding grounds for rodents and other pests. Usually houses which are abandoned are on weed-infested property which is extremely susceptable to fire which could cause widespread damage.
According to the 1970 Census, the vacancy rate in Compton was 5.3 percent. With the vacancy factor on the increase within the past 24 months, a large percentage of those vacancies have been boarded up. Many others have been abandoned by absentee landlords, because bringing them up to code and making them liveable has proven to be very costly. The factors surrounding this situation are not accidental. They stem from several causes:
First: Inadequate floor-space for the previous occupants.
Economics has play a part in all three of the above factors. The suggestions in S. 1988 dealing with economic factors seem to be workable ones. They have merit in several areas. Most greatly, in regard to the fact that they provide:
One: A vehicle through which adequate housing can be provided for those who desire it.
Two: Educational value through the proposed corporate structure. Three: Ample provisions for lay input.
Four: A viable mechanism by which Government redtape can be cut.
Five: Meaningful employment of the skilled trades that is very necessary to facilitate and bring about a change in the housing situation as it exists in Compton and other southern California communities.
Six: Not only remodeling, but also suggests and includes the demolition of housing that would be too costly to remodel (i.e., one- and two-bedroom frame and stucco cottages and one- and two-bedroom bachelor-type apartments). There is additional merit in the plan, as proposed, in that it permits and encourages new land use.
It is generally known that where there is an adequate standard of housing, the vacancy factor is always low, and the investor is almost always guaranteed returns on his investment. The corporate structure, as proposed, seems to be sound, workable, as well as within the grasp of lay people.
With the present backlog of vacant houses now held by HUD, the VA, and FHA, which now meet present construction codes, and with these Government entities finding it very difficult to dispose of these large inventories that they now hold, the Abandonment Disaster Demonstration Relief Act, if enacted as proposed, will restore adequate housing to the housing market. The proposed financial arrangements are good, seemingly sound and within the reach of those who need housing most and who have the least amount of money with which to purchase such housing.
In summary, special attention is drawn to paragraphs 2, 4, and 6.
We feel confident that the bodies that must approve S. 1988 will find no reason to delay or disapprove S. 1988.
Senator CRANSTON. Thank you very, very much, and that explanation of the length of time between abandonment and crime is particularly helpful to us. I'm grateful to you for that.
I will ask these questions of whomever chooses to answer; and if somebody wants to supplement or contradict the answer of whomever speaks first, please don't hesitate to do so.
What do you think of the “as-is sales program”? How does that work out when homes are turned over to people without any repairs being done?
Mr. Dorsox. What do we think of it?
Senator CRANSTON. Yes. What do you think of the HUD “as-is sale program” where a home is not renovated at all but disposed of and somebody takes it over in the vandalized condition?
Mr. Dotson. I think this only has merit in that the person it is turned over to is financially able to bring it up to code. It doesn't mean much just to turn over an abandoned house to someone who may not be able to bring it up to code, nor is interested in living there, other than to enjoy the benefits of maybe what loans might be acquired from it.
Senator CRANSTON. Isn't that just a way of reducing inventory without really exercising any responsibility ?
Mr. Dotsox. That is one way of reducing inventory, yes.
Mr. SALZMAN. Mr. Dotson is accurate, because if you turned over a home, you'll find in many abandoned areas that the people that may move in do not have the financial capacity to bring it up to codes; and, therefore, they might be residing in housing that was neither decent, safe, nor sanitary.
Senator CRANSTOx. Do you think that the "as-is program” ought to be abolished, or should it be revised, or what should we do about it?
Mr. SALZMAN. I think it depends on the location. In some areas the “as-is program” could work because you find people with higher incomes that might buy it and live where they are living and not move right in until it has been fixed up.
Mr. Dotson. I would like to respond to that, also.
The "as-is program" is attractive only to those who wish to renovate property, but those who wish to just occupy for a short length of time, then the "as-is program” has very little value from my point of view.
Senator CRANSTON. Have you found any programs that work in terms of finding out about a home that is abandoned and taking care of it until it's reoccupied ?