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The Sarasota County Commission has sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, asking for his help in sorting out prob- lems with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that have prevented loans from being issued in a local affordable housing program. The Feb. 6 letter from County Commission Chairman Charles Hines was the result of a unanimous board vote on Jan. 28 following an assertion by Donald Hadsell, director of the Sarasota Office of Housing and Community Development, that the city and county would be proceeding at their own risk to issue loans in a down payment assistance program until HUD has estab- lished guidelines for the program. Hadsell explained that HUD has refused to answer any of his or his staff's questions about what should be in the new local guidelines. His fear, he says, is that the city and county would be financially liable for failed projects. Although HUD's HOME Partnership (HOME) program dates back to the early 1990s, and certain facets of it have not been amended in the intervening years, Hadsell said, "What has changed is HUD's interpretation of the risk for non-compliance …" In the past, he contin- ued, if problems that arose with loans were outside the control of the local governments involved, HUD "was willing to overlook or forgive those indiscre- tions. … Now they're Don Hadsell, director of the Office of Housing and Community Development in Sarasota, speaks to the County Commission on Jan. 28. Photo by Norman Schimmel THE COUNTY COMMISSION WANTS ANSWERS FROM A FEDERAL AGENCY REGARDING ITS DELAY IN ISSUING GUIDELINES FOR AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROGRAM COUNTY TO CONGRESSMAN: HELP! I'm having some huge heartburn over HUD not answering questions. If our staffs have questions, how dare they not answer them. Christine Robinson Vice Chairwoman Sarasota County Commission By Rachel Brown Hackney Editor NEWS & COMMENTARY

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