The City Council this afternoon unanimously approved the city’s plan to spend $9.4 million to combat the impacts of foreclosure in some hard-hit neighborhoods.

But comment from council members focused heavily on a need for a regional strategy to deal with foreclosure that would extend past the expenditure of the federal dollars. Should more money come in from the federal or state governments, the city should be ready to round up more money from its redevelopment and community assistance funds to make the foreclosure aid go further.

Councilman Tony Young asked Rick Gentry, CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission, to come back to the council in 60 days with a plan to engage community organizations, nonprofits and banks in its foreclosure mitigation efforts. He also suggested that city officials find ways to tap into funds from the Redevelopment Agency and other sources of community blight-fighting money.

“This (plan) gives the impression that we’re responding just because there’s money,” Young said. “Nine million dollars is not going to address this issue. … We didn’t hear a lot of creativity … about this issue and that’s one thing I really think is lacking here.”

Representing the four districts identified as targets for this funding, four community members formally opposed the plan as it stands: Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils, Richard Lawrence, a longtime affordable housing advocate, Jay Powell, director of the City Heights Community Development Corp., and David Flores of Casa Familiar in San Ysidro.

Crenshaw spoke for the group, echoing many of the concerns he raised yesterday. Crenshaw suggested that the lion’s share of the money not go to helping homeowners purchase homes, but rather the majority of the funding go to increasing the piece of the plan that acquires and rehabs foreclosed homes.

Barry Schultz, CEO of the San Diego Capital Collaborative, expressed support for the plan, but echoed the sentiments that the plan to spend the $9.4 million should exist in the context of a greater strategy, something his organization suggested as an umbrella approach over its land bank proposal.

Councilwoman Toni Atkins asked that the program target properties, not just families. She said community organizations have knowledge of certain blighted houses, condo conversions or pieces of land that are problem properties in each of these hard-hit neighborhoods.

The city’s application for its $9.4 million allotment of the HUD grants is due Dec. 1. Should the application be approved, Gentry expects the city will have the money in hand in early spring 2009.

KELLY BENNETT

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