City vows to proceed on housing

September 21, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

The controversial, federally subsidized housing program called Moving to Opportunity will proceed despite the objections of Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden, according to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III.

The two Baltimore leaders met last week in Washington with Henry G. Cisneros, secretary of of housing and urban development, Mr. Henson said. He said they briefly discussed the MTO pilot program, which has caused furor in eastern Baltimore County.

"He felt very strongly that it would go forward," Mr. Henson said.

The city will move ahead with MTO, Mayor Schmoke said.

"There's no change in our position," he said. "The families that have been identified to move will be ready to go in this program. I am absolutely certain that after all these people have been placed that their neighbors are going to find them good neighbors."

Mr. Henson said the Hayden letter asking for a delay of the program "seemed like grandstanding." The executive since has sent a second letter asking for cancellation of the pilot program that would move 285 poor Baltimore families to nicer neighborhoods of their choice in the city and surrounding five counties.

Mr. Hayden has not received a direct reply from HUD to either letter. He declined to comment further on the topic yesterday, said county spokesman Robert Hughes.

Baltimore is one of five cities in the program. The city applied for $12.5 million, which will pay for Section 8 rental subsidies to allow MTO families to move. Mr. Henson's department then contracted with a private anti-poverty agency to counsel half the families on adapting to new surroundings. The other half will relocate without counseling, as a control group.

Mr. Henson said 885 families applied to participate by the deadline, which was Monday . The first families should begin moving in November.

Mr. Cisneros said "he'd be happy to meet with Mr. Hayden," Mr. Henson said. "Evidently he had drafted a response to Mr. Hayden and asked what we thought."

No meeting has been set, said HUD spokesman William Connelly.

The Cisneros draft was to an Aug. 25 letter asking for a delay in MTO because of the uproar. Mr. Hayden sent a second letter Friday asking that the program be canceled because $149 million for its expansion has been shifted to similar Section 8 programs.

Mr. Henson said MTO initially was so noncontroversial that "nobody paid any attention to it" and he couldn't get publicity for it short of buying ads. He said the fuss was a result of the County Council primary in Dundalk. "Mrs. Jung running against Mr. DePazzo was the issue," said Mr. Henson. Louis L. DePazzo, who encouraged public outrage over the program, defeated Jean Jung, president of the board of the Community Assistance Network, the agency that contracted to counsel MTO families.

Mr. DePazzo denied yesterday linking her to the program in the campaign.

Mr. Henson said Mr. DePazzo never called him for information on MTO. "How can you be against a program to improve people's lives?" he asked. "Let us test it."

He ridiculed accusations that city officials kept information about the program secret from the county. He said he called community development director Frank W. Welsh Sept. 22, 1993, and told him about MTO, but Mr. Welsh said the county wanted nothing to do with it.

Mr. Welsh denied that, saying the call came later last year.

"He called me for a letter of support," Mr. Welsh said, adding that he refused because the county had no role in MTO's creation or planning.

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