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Housing Department Given New Name

After years of mismanagement that resulted in scathing audits and its former director being indicted on theft charges, the Louisville Metro Department of Housing and Family Services has been renamed and restructured.The move is part of Mayor Greg Fischer's continued rebranding of Metro Government departments and officers.The agency is now called the Department of Community Services and Revitalization with three specific divisions and new programs that will serve residents housing needs.Fischer spokesman Phil Miller says the name more closely reflects the department's mission to revitalize all neighborhoods."It reflects a new approach and a new mission and the desire by Mayor Fischer to make this department the best it can possibly be," he says. "The agency will continue to offer the same services it has in the past, but I think there's a real focus on streamlining service and the process of delivering them is as friendly to the customer as possible."All client based services such as Neighborhood Place, Community Action Partnership, Self Sufficiency Services and Home Repair Services will be under the Community Services division. Affordable housing development activities including land use and development programs will be under the Community Revitalization division.The third division will address agency compliance and administrative issues led by Laura Grabowski, who will help ensure transparent reporting is maintained and proper monitoring is conducted of all local, state and federal grants.According to the mayor's office, the department receives approximately $36 million in state and federal grant money annually. It was the mismanagement of those taxpayer funds under former Mayor Jerry Abramson's administration that led to a state audit which found questionable spending of millions in federal funds.A two-year police investigation was launched and found former housing director Kimberly Bunton's mother received more than $2,000 in low-income assistance from the housing department, including $500 from a taxpayer-funded account meant for assisting poor children.Both Bunton and her mother were indicted on two felony theft charges last year and face a jury trial set for October. If convicted, the 39-year-old attorney, who reimbursed the city after resigning in 2008, faces a fine of up to $10,000 and five years in prison.The Fischer administration hopes staff changes and new programs such as financial literacy, counseling services and asset building will give residents confidence the agency is turning around."It's clear that it is a desire by Mayor Fischer to make sure this department operates as efficiently and effectively as it can in the future," says Miller. "Obviously, as the audits have demonstrated there have been some issues in the past. And those are being corrected, those are being addressed and they will move forward with this new focus on making sure that they're in compliance with all grants and monies."The department will hold an open house at 2 p.m. July 14 at the Memorial Auditorium Ballroom on South Fourth Street to introduce the new structure, programs and staff to residents.