FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Fulton County commissioners voted in December to stop managing grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The grants included programs to address homelessness, redevelop foreclosed properties and help low-income people find and afford homes.
In the past, Fulton County would receive the federal funding and distribute it to the municipalities. Since the formation of Sandy Springs in 2005, most of Fulton County has been incorporated into cities.
Atlanta, Johns Creek, Roswell and Sandy Springs already manage HUD allocations directly. Now other cities seeking the federal aid will either work with the housing department directly or go through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Commissioner Bob Ellis said the change was done not to cut off the aid, but to give the cities more control and to better address the needs of their residents.
“Increasingly, the evidence has been clear that we’re not doing a very good job administering these programs and getting the funds to recipients these programs are designed to benefit,” Ellis said.
Fulton County has underspent the fund allocated by millions over the past six years. HUD had declared the county out of compliance and threatened to suspend all funding. The county also had to divert $1 million from its general fund to pay for projects it thought qualified for federal grants but were rejected.
The final vote was 4-3 with Chairman Robb Pitts and Commissioners Liz Hausmann, Ellis and Lee Morris in favor, and the three South Fulton commissioners opposed.
Commissioner Joe Carn, the newest member of the board, said the decision was rushed and would leave the cities not already working with HUD in a bad spot.
“You guys are on your own now,” Carn said. “You got to get it from the state if you can … I understand we didn’t do a great job with the program, but does that mean just give up? Throw our hands up and say we can’t handle it anymore.”
Since 2005, the cities of Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, Chattahoochee Hills and South Fulton have formed. Only a 7-mile, largely commercial district remains unincorporated Fulton County.
Over the past few years, the Board of Commissioners has begun to redefine what the role of the county is now that most major services — like police, fire, parks and planning — are handled by the cities.