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Fenty Upbeat About Housing Program in Face of Budget Freeze

In his first comments since the D.C. Council passed legislation to close the city's $131 million budget gap this week, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said that he is confident that he will still be able to implement his plan to move 800 chronically homeless people into permanent homes by this time next year.

"We have targeted the people, we have put the resources in place, now it is a matter of implementation," said Fenty during a brief interview with The Wire in The Washington Post newsroom. "We will work over the next 11 months in the fiscal year to get it done."

On Monday the D.C. Council passed a bill to cut the District's budget by $130.7 million and to freeze an additional $46 million until next February. The actions were taken in response to the nation's economic downturn. In a memo before the vote, Fenty told council Chairman Vincent C. Gray that the lawmakers' steps would jeopardize a number of programs, including the mayor's "Housing First" initiative.

But yesterday Fenty seemed less distressed about the council's trims and offered a more upbeat assessment of the housing effort. Since August, the program has placed nearly 500 people in apartments across the city in what the administration describes as permanent supportive housing.

"I think that we have made great strides in our Housing First policy," Fenty said. " I think this fiscal year will prove to be the most productive."
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"In an ideal world you would have all of the resources necessary to do everything, but that is not realistic. Private organizations don't work like that and neither do governments," Fenty said. "We have to operate in a fiscally responsible way."

Hmmm. Signs of the mayor taking his financial medicine, or a confident Fenty who expects in February that the freeze will indeed be lifted and things will be back on track? Whatever the answer, observers of the now-longstanding, rather infamous power struggles between Fenty and Gray know that a satisfied council chairman is somewhere smiling.

Hamil R. Harris

By Marcia Davis  |  November 14, 2008; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Mayor Fenty  
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