Housing Loan Questions

City Hall watchdog Ernie Salomon has raised questions about an employee loan program designed to help city workers buy homes, charging that many of the loans are now worth more than the properties themselves and that the program, begun in 2000, siphoned more than $4 million from the general fund that could otherwise have paid the salaries of firefighters, police officers, or librarians. Furthermore, Salomon — also a public-access TV talk-show host — contends the loan program has operated with no oversight by the City Council. Mayor Helene Schneider countered that the council has revisited and reauthorized the loan program twice since its inception. City finance czar Bob Samario said of the 45 loans issued by this program, nine have been repaid in full. Of the 36 still outstanding, only one is in arrears. Samario said he expected a check this week to cure that deficiency. more

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