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Mayor Jerry Sanders formally announced the city’s plan to spend $9.4 million in HUD grants at a press conference earlier this afternoon. Housing Commission officials are slated to present the plan this afternoon in the City Council meeting.

Along with the mayor, Councilman Ben Hueso and Councilwoman Toni Atkins spoke about the foreclosure wave that has doused parts of their districts. Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry mentioned some neighborhoods yesterday where these HUD grants would be focused: Golden Hill, North Park, City Heights, Barrio Logan, Encanto and Nestor.

Atkins acknowledged the disproportionate funding for foreclosure aid in light of the huge numbers of foreclosures in San Diego.

“$9.4 million is a good start,” she said. “But we know the need is greater and may even continue to grow.”

She mentioned the fear among government officials and charities working in City Heights that foreclosure will erase some of the work done there to revitalize the community after it fell into blight in the last housing downturn. A few people I spoke to for this story in July described that concern.

I thought something Hueso said brought up an interesting question in the current housing market conditions. He said the city has put effort into increasing homeownership rates in the city of San Diego, rates which he said had historically been among the lowest in the country. He equated increased homeownership with increased civic-mindedness, neighborhood safety and pride of ownership.

And Hueso said this foreclosure crisis “threatens to undermine years and years of hard work” to get residents in homes and help them “realize the American dream.”

Local government, Hueso said, should play a large role in promoting homeownership in the city of San Diego.

“We don’t want people to necessarily become renters,” he said.

But yesterday, Gentry of the Housing Commission said he wanted to be careful in these foreclosure plans to not just push someone into homeownership who shouldn’t be there. So much of the housing boom was about using risky mortgages to get into a house that a borrower couldn’t afford traditionally, all based on a bet that the housing market would continue to ascend and the borrower could refinance into a regular loan.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Hueso’s comments or on homeownership in San Diego. Will homeownership as an ideal change? Send me an e-mail: kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org.

KELLY BENNETT

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