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JUST ASKING: DBAS 1602 PROGRAM

Dear Samoa News,

Since relocating here to American Samoa in the 90’s, I have rented in several different homes paying rent of $350 to $500 per month. Now imagine my delight when I heard that this 1602 program was to benefit low income people and as such was truly humbled and thankful to those that worked hard to bring this program to Am. Samoa.

At last, the opportunity to live in a brand new house at a reasonable price.

During my journey to land one of these 1602 homes, my delight was short-lived when I found that these homes were asking anywhere from $650 - $1000 per month. Bullocks I say! Can someone please explain how you expect low income earners to pay these ludicrous amounts?

If this program is truly designed to benefit the low income bracket, please break this down for me as I can’t see anyone forking out these extremely high amounts to live in either an apartment or single unit. Between paying for personal loans, school fees, utilities and feeding one’s family, I can’t for the life of me see how people will be able to afford these homes.

This is American Samoa, not Hawaii or the US. Can someone tell me what Low Income is on this island and how the program arrived at these high rates for housing?

In addition, there is an application that the renter is required to fill. I personally feel that the information they are asking for is none of their business. They want to know my bank account, my social security number, my assets etc. etc.

I am not the owner of the house.

Shouldn’t the bank take this up with the owner for them to provide their information? All I want to do is rent. Not be asked to fill out pages and pages of questions, which as far as I’m concerned is none of their business.

I understand that additional funding may be made available for this program. I would ask the decision makers to please re-look at this program.

I see that homes have been available for quite some time without any tenants. Please do the math. Your clientele (Low Income earners) cannot afford this type of rent. I foresee completed and many vacant homes under this program going to waste. Many of those that are currently renting homes outside of this program 1602 I believe would rather continue renting with their current homeowners than move to a house which is under the program that’s asking for too much.

Mr. LTM

Samoa News answers:

We asked DBAS about their 1602 low income housing program — rental practices and the seemingly high rent being charged for what is supposed to be low income houses. We were told that only the DBAS President, Lolo Moliga, knows the ‘ins and outs’ of the program and we would have to speak with him. Samoa News has been unable to get an interview with Lolo about the program.

The 1602 program is also said to have been first initiated by Utu Abe Malae when he was president of DBAS. When he resigned in 2008 to run for governor of American Samoa, the program was just beginning. For that reason, Samoa News has sent an email to Utu, who works off-island, asking for any background information he has on the program. We have not received a reply, as of press time.

Results from a “google” of the program are complicated, at best for details (there is no information on American Samoa’s program) — it shows up as a HUD Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP) and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Exchange Program (“Section 1602) in states that have chosen to utilize the program.

Essentially, according to a training manual on the LIHTC program released by the federal government in 2010, the underlying purpose of the program is “to incentivize and leverage private-sector investment capital for the creation of rental housing units in each state affordable to households earning 60% or less of Area Median Income (AMI), thereby supplementing federal appropriations devoted to the production of public housing and rental housing assistance programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).”

From such federal- lese talk —it sounds like one needs to know what the AMI is in American Samoa, and what households are earning 60% or less of it to qualify for the ‘affordable’ houses. It also sounds like what’s charged for the houses/ apartments is dictated by this, perhaps — the difference being made up through a tax credit incentive?

However, the public could get a clearer picture of the program tomorrow: The lawmakers in the House of Representatives are planning on holding a hearing on Friday (tomorrow) — seeking more info on the DBAS federal low income housing program.

Following complaints from the public of alleged problems with the federal loan program for low income housing called 1602, the House Government Operations Committee, chaired by Rep. Faimealelei A. Allen, has scheduled a hearing to get answers from the Development Bank of American Samoa (DBAS) president Lolo M. Moliga.

Since January this year, lawmakers — in both the Senate and House — have voiced their concerns over this program, after their constituents complained to them that some recipients didn’t get all the money they were supposed to get or could not finish their projects after funding was terminated by DBAS, which administers the federal program locally.

And with the current session ending next week Friday, the House is moving to get answers from Lolo as more complaints last week were received by House members, who are concerned that any problems with the program may result in ASG having to repay the money back to the federal government.

Some recipients of the loan program are now unable to complete their low income housing projects, which now stand on land without being occupied.

Besides Lolo being called for tomorrow’s hearing, the other witness is the Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel Toetasi Tuiteleleapaga, according to the House schedule.



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