Fort Worth

Ben Carson in Fort Worth: Other funding can fill in holes left by budget cuts

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said Wednesday that ideas that helped low-income residents in need of affordable housing in Fort Worth might also help low-income residents nationwide.

Carson, the former presidential candidate who was sworn in as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on March 2, has embarked on a six- to eight-city listening tour and started a two-day visit to Fort Worth on Wednesday.

Carson spent an hour touring Hunter Plaza Apartments, which was refurbished after it was evacuated in 2011 because of a bedbug infestation. The renovation cost more than $17.5 million and was paid for with funding from nine sources, said Matthew Corcoran, vice president of Fort Worth Housing Solutions.

In the face of a possible $6.2 billion budget cut to his department that President Donald Trump is calling for, Carson may also need to be creative.

“Well, first of all, we don’t know what the final numbers will ultimately be, No. 1, and No. 2, housing is part of the infrastructure of this country and it will be treated as such, so there will be other funding sources for housing, for housing reconstruction,” Carson said.

Carson said that he was impressed with Hunter Plaza and that the concept used to renovate it could be used in other parts of the country.

Naomi Byrne, president of Fort Worth Housing Solutions, said she has weaned her organization away from the expectation that the federal government will maintain past funding levels.

“We anticipate that every year there will be funding cuts,” Byrne said. “There has always been a shortfall between the amount requested by HUD and the amount appropriated by Congress.”

Hunter Plaza is a mixed-use development with 172 residential units. Retail space and apartments rented at market value make up 30 percent of the project, and the other 70 percent is designated for low-income housing, Fort Worth Housing Solutions officials said.

Hunter Plaza’s first retail customer, a Segway tour company, was completing a lease with building management for 6,000 square feet of space Wednesday, Corcoran said.

“We have revenue from other funding sources, and that helps our bottom line,” Byrne said.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3