Step Aside, Florida. It's California's Turn.

There'snot nearly as much housing help as the $4 billion the BushAdministration deliveredin September. Of the $731million President Obama handed out this time, though, at least California got thelion's share.

Bothrounds were part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's NeighborhoodStabilization Program; Thursday's funding was part of this year'sstimulus bill. The program was created last year to help states and some localcommunities buy, renovate, sell or develop foreclosed or abandoned homes.

The newround, which Obama announced Thursday during a trip to California, includes $145 million forstatewide programs.

An additional $21.7 million goes to local governments, much of that to the City of Modestoand Stanislaus Countyin the hard-hit Central Valley. It's probablynot mere coincidence that the $15.7 million infusion of stimulus money helpsgive Blue Dog Rep. Dennis Cardoza politicalcover in the core of his district.

The moneyis no political gift, though. According to February statistics from RealtyTrac, Modesto's foreclosure rate is thefourth-highest in the nation. Californiacontinues to lead the states, with foreclosures increasing 51 percent over theprevious year and 5 percent over the previous month.

It's nicethat an administration finally recognizes those statistics.

InSeptember, HUD data evaluated California's risk that homes would be abandonedas "low" and Florida's as "medium" in deciding to awardFlorida $541 million and California $529 million.

Californiaofficials were baffled and outraged.

"Frankly, it is beyond us how California-- which has nearly twice the amount of foreclosure filings than Florida -- could receiveless assistance. This makes no sense, and is totally unacceptable," Sens.Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer wrote then-HUD Secretary Steve Preston.

TheSeptember calculations for "abandonment risk" were based on U.S.Postal Service vacancy information and federal data on high-riskloans. The scores did yield interesting results.

Alabama, with only a 3.6 percent foreclosure rate over the 18months previous, was considered a "high" abandonment risk, while California, with a 6.7percent foreclosure rate, was deemed a "low" risk. Florida's foreclosure rate was placed at 8 percent - the California senatorsdispute that figure, which was based on Mortgage Bankers AssociationNational Delinquency Survey and not actual filings - and called a"medium" risk.

Criticismof the program didn't end with concerns about the formula. Since the firstround was delivered, concerns have popped up in many states about lack ofguidelines for how the money should be spent.

Inclassic examples of NIMBY-ism that balks when neighborhoods shift away fromowner-occupied, some people have said they'd rather see abandonedproperties razed than rented.

It probably won't allay NIMBY concerns, but HUD doesallow the money to be used to help low and moderate income buyers with down payments andclosing costs.

There's also a provision to prevent subprime-loanshivers from running down you spine: All buyers receiving help will have toundergo financial counseling, and the financing must be from an institution that agreesto follow sound lending practices.

The lessthan $700 million Californiahas received in both rounds is a drop in the bucket when it comes to solvingthe state's foreclosure crisis. But it at least offers some hope to people whowould like to see their neighborhoods look less like ghost towns.