Members Making News - January 2013

Announcement on Eliminating Repair Backlog
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Housing Authority Chairman John Rhea announced an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog of 420,000 repair requests by the end of 2013; permanently reduce the average wait time to one week for minor repairs and two weeks those needing skilled tradesmen; and respond to all emergency repair requests within 24 hours. Despite severe Federal underfunding, Mayor Bloomberg said, “Through better management of materials and equipment inventory, improved scheduling of skilled trades workers and by hiring more workers to make repairs, NYCHA will tackle the backlog of old repairs and deal with new requests more quickly.” View video of announcement. (Jan 31)
NYCHA Alerts
As one means of better communicating with residents, the New York City Housing Authority has introduced NYCHA Alerts—an online system that informs residents about service outages and restorations within their development.  Residents can visit this website periodically to check the status of compactor, electricity, elevator, gas, heat, hot water, low voltage and water service disruptions; or they can subscribe to get status updates automatically by email. (Jan 31)
Adrienne Goolsby and officials
U.S. Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (VA-03), Mayor Dwight Jones, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority staff, and HUD officials gathered at Fay Towers senior housing to announce HUD’s RAD award to RRHA. (Jan 31)

With federal funding having dropped well below the levels needed to maintain existing stock, San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee is looking to replace his city’s traditional public housing with Hope SF, a privately funded model based on the now-ended HOPE VI federal program. HOPE SF is leveraging federal funding to secure private investment that will enable distressed public housing projects to be rebuilt and managed by private developers. Federal officials are working to craft recommendations by July 1 for a drastically reformed San Francisco Housing Authority that operates under the Hope SF model. (Jan 29)

New Furniture for NYCHA Residents
The New York City Housing Authority’s Family Services Department has been coordinating the relocation of families affected by Hurricane Sandy, many of whom lost all their belongings. Working with partners and donors the Department was able to provide assistance with securing furniture and other household items. It obtained a $55,000 grant from the Robin Hood Foundation through its partnership with Community Solutions. In addition, Loews Regency Hotel donated more than 2,500 pieces of furniture through The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. NYCHA’s Office of Public-Private Partnerships also secured donations of more than $43,000 worth of beds from Sleepy’s, $10,000 worth of furniture from Rent-A-Center from Rent-A-Center, and $6,000 worth of furniture from Gothic Cabinet. (Jan 26)

The Mosby Leadership Program—a partnership with the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, VCU ASPiRE Program and the VCU Center on Health Disparities—held graduation on January 25 for its 14-member inaugural class. The program is designed to sustain the building of community capacity, empower change, and maximize the participation of residents from the Mosby public housing development as volunteers with community-based organizations. Over a five-month period, participants attended workshops focused on leadership skill development, including conflict resolution, effective communication, and computer skills training. (Jan 25)

Old Colony redevelopment
Progress continues on the redevelopment of the Old Colony public housing development, an icon of old South Boston. The demolition and cleanup portion of Phase Two, which addresses 223 units, should be completed by February, and early construction and foundation work for 169 new units should begin shortly after. The Boston Housing Authority is partnering with Beacon Communities to redevelop the 16.7-acre site, first constructed in 1940. The project will not only erect new townhouses and four-story elevator buildings but also create new streets that will open up Old Colony and reintegrate it to the community. (Jan 23)

Wells Fargo, Oregon’s third-largest bank, reports that it invested $53 million in statewide affordable housing projects in 2012, including Home Forward’s rehabilitation of the New Markets Building in Portland. (Jan 22)

The Seattle Housing Authority’s board unanimously voted to begin exclusive negotiations with Vulcan, the real-estate firm that remade South Lake Union, for partnership in the $300 million redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, the city’s first public housing project. Citing their respected local track record, Housing Authority board chairman John Littel said, “One thing that impressed me was their commitment to economic opportunity for local residents and local contractors.” (Jan 22)

In an article on the Chicago Housing Authority’s plans to redevelop the Lathrop Homes complex, the Chicago Tribune highlights the tensions between maintaining the community makeup and ties that current residents know and rely upon, and creating a thriving, economically diverse neighborhood in line with public housing transformation across the country. (Jan 22)

Citing “extremely strong overall management,” a “very strong financial profile,” and a “strong development arm that maximizes external resources,” Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services raised its credit rating for the San Diego Housing Commission from A+ to AA. The rating report states that “Standard & Poor’s believes that SDHC’s management has the wherewithal to balance new development and rehabilitation prudently, in a manner that makes the most use of its resources, to improve its overall housing stock.” (Jan 18)

Newly sworn-in Senator Chris Murphy’s tour of Farnham Courts, a chronically violent public housing project in New Haven, has brought renewed attention to Elm City Communities’ efforts to revitalize the neighborhood. Sen. Murphy pledged to help the housing authority pursue its application for a Choice Neighborhood grant while acknowledging that it won’t be a light lift. (Jan 18)

St. Johns Woods
Home Forward’s board has approved the $8.25 million sale of its 124-unit St. Johns Woods complex in North Portland to Vitus Group, a Seattle-based affordable housing provider that plans to renovate the Section 8 project designated for families earning up to 50 percent of area median income. The housing authority will invest the net proceeds in new affordable housing and renovations of other properties in its portfolio. (Jan 17)

The Denver Housing Authority’s collaboration with the city’s Brownfields Program and Denver Environmental Health proved key to the redevelopment of the South Lincoln Homes, the first phase of which occurred on a brownfield purchased by the city and remediated using EPA Brownfield grants and city funds. (Jan 17)

NYCHA Post-Sandy Workers
With help from a $7.1 million National Emergency Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the New York City Housing Authority has begun hiring hundreds of temporary employees for post-Hurricane Sandy recovery work at NYCHA developments affected by the storm. Many of these workers themselves lost jobs or had housing affected by Sandy, and half of those hired so far are NYCHA residents. The New York City Department of Small Business Services assisted with hiring through its Workforce1 program. (Jan 16)
Emergency Shelter at St. Vincent de Paul Village
More than 150 homeless men and women found protection from unusually cold temperatures over four nights in January after the San Diego Housing Commission provided the funding for additional shelter beds at four downtown locations in response to concern from the San Diego Police Department Homeless Outreach Team over the risk to downtown homeless San Diegans from nighttime temperatures in the 30s and low 40s—the coldest weather front in several years. (Jan 15)

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin has reported that selection of the Fresno Housing Authority as part of RAD will boost the local economy by creating 750 new jobs for construction and installation workers. Public housing properties in agency’s portfolio could see much-needed rehabilitation in the next few years that might otherwise have taken as long as 30—or the stock may have been lost. Federal Housing Administration commissioner Carol Galante was in Fresno on January 11 to celebrate the authority’s selection for RAD and tour Cedar Courts, one of the properties that will be renovated. (Jan 11)

The Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority received a RAD award to modernize the 136-unit Parqwood Apartments complex for low-income seniors and make energy-efficiency upgrades. The Toledo Blade article quotes CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman on the significance of RAD: “It is rethinking the 70-year-old public housing program. It is bringing it more in sync with how we operate other types of housing and real estate.” (Jan 11)

CMHA and HUD officials
Sandra Henriquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, joined officials from the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority in Cleveland to host a roundtable discussing the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program with local housing leaders and advocates. She also toured CMHA’s oldest housing project, Cedar Extension, which was built in 1933 and is one of three CMHA projects that will be rebuilt or redeveloped with private investment leveraged through participation in RAD. (Jan 10)

A RAD award for Holly Berry Court means that the Millville Housing Authority will be able to work with private investors to preserve this public housing property that was facing demolition a few years ago due to lack of needed federal funds. Major renovations at the 48-unit complex will include new kitchens, new floors, and improved energy efficiency. (Jan 10)

The New York City Housing Authority has selected Brooklyn-based nonprofit CAMBA Housing Ventures, Inc. as developer for the Van Dyke Supportive Housing Development Project. The plan calls for construction of a new mid-rise sustainable and contextual building with 100 units, landscaped areas, and on-site social services on the site of an 11,562-square-foot parking lot. CAMBA will provide on-site social services and employment training for the residents of the building, and the greater Brownsville community will be linked and referred to relevant CAMBA services and other community-based services.  (Jan 9)

The Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority is partnering with Medina Creative Housing and the city of Mount Healthy to build a 40-unit community for persons with disabilities. (Jan 9)

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has raised the Chicago Housing Authority's issuer credit rating from AA-minus to double-A, stating that “the rating reflects the authority's extremely strong overall management, a very strong enterprise risk profile, and a very strong financial risk profile.” S&P also raised its long-term rating on CHA's $25 million taxable revenue bonds series to double-A from AA-minus. (Jan 8)

To enlist his help in securing funding for a transformation of rundown and dangerous projects, New Haven officials, including Elm City Communities’ Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton, took Senator Chris Murphy on a before-and-after tour of public housing six days after he was sworn into office. They showed him Farnam Courts, for which they hope to finally receive a Choice Neighborhoods grant that would enable them to recreate the success that redevelopment has brought Quinnipiac Terrace. Q Terrace, now with attractive housing and landscaping, suffered the same chronic violence and maintenance issues as Farnam Courts until it was gradually torn down and rebuilt with a mix of incomes as well as owners and renters. (Jan 8)

Solar Panel Array
The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority is ready to fire up its new 4,212-panel solar array, the largest ever in greater Cleveland. Sitting on six acres of brownfield next to the agency’s new headquarters, this solar farm will generate 1.1 megawatts—enough electricity to power the 73,000-square-foot building and save CMHA millions over the 30-year life of the panels. (Jan 7)
Paschall Village
The Philadelphia Housing Authority has won a "Pioneer in Housing Award" in recognition of its commitment to tackling critical environmental and energy issues with an entrepreneurial approach to financing development. “At a time when energy efficiency and green building methods are of prime importance, the Philadelphia Housing Authority is leading the way in developing sustainable sites that will save money for residents and taxpayers in the long term," said judges for the NMA Housing Awards, which honor agencies that build bridges to the future and create real change in their communities and the affordable housing industry. (Jan 2)

According to city health officials, new data indicate that asthma incidences among Boston Housing Authority residents have dropped nearly by half since 2005, The Boston Globe reports. “That is when the housing authority teamed up with the Boston Public Health Commission to reduce the number of roaches and rodents, while reducing the use of pesticides, which, along with roach and rodent droppings, can aggravate asthma symptoms.” Commission researchers are now looking more closely at the relationship between the levels of vermin infestations and a range of health problems, including asthma, stress, and depression among BHA’s 27,000 residents. (Jan 1)