Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is giving New Orleans Mayor Roy Nagin until May 31 to make use of the millions in untouched federal funds for his city before she has some of it taken away, reports The Times-Picayune.
Since New Orleans started receiving money – between $6 million and $7 million each year – from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME fund in 1992, the city has had money left over every year. There is almost $34 million meant to be used for affordable low-income housing that has yet to be spent. Most of the money has been allocated to subsidize home renovations or to help people pay their rent, but of the leftover money, about $15 million hasn’t been set aside for anything yet, records show.
Landrieu composed a letter to Nagin and had her chief of staff hand-deliver it to the mayor, who was in D.C. Wednesday.
“I would like to work with the city of New Orleans to secure an extension of the deadline by which the HOME funds must be expended,” she wrote. “However, unless the city of New Orleans can commit to working with my office to ensure that these funds are going to be spent effectively, I will be compelled to appeal to HUD to identify an alternative recipient for this funding.”
She also warned that Congress might decide to take back some of the funds if they don’t think it will be used appropriately. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the city had already been given three extensions to spend the HOME money, the paper reports.
Nagin and Landrieu haven’t had the best relationship in recent years; in fact, the mayor beat out Landrieu’s brother in 2006’s mayoral election. Nevertheless, Nagin does recognize the importance of working with her.
“He sees them as a statement that the city and the senator’s office need to work together to resolve this issue,” Nagin’s spokesman said in a statement. The spokesman also sent another statement from Ed Blakely, Nagin’s recovery director, which claimed that about $20 million of the unspent money has in fact been allocated to programs in New Orleans.