Members Making News - June 2013

Tacoma Housing Authority will soon implement its Housing Opportunities Program, which aims to serve more families, stretch limited funding, and promote self-sufficiency by setting a five-year time limit on voucher assistance and paying a slightly lower percentage of a household’s monthly rent. Designation as part of the MTW program enables THA to make changes and will also make it possible for the agency to invest $150,000 of its voucher funding each year in a county program for homeless youth without families, a group that has no other housing options and tends to fall through the cracks in existing programs. (June 30)

Cambridge Housing Authority and Transition House have launched “Pathways to Permanent Housing,” an innovative partnership to address domestic violence that will start immediately and continue for at least three years. After working together for more than 10 years to create and sustain emergency and transitional housing options for survivors of domestic violence through the Sponsor-Based voucher program, CHA and Transition House have announced this new program that takes advantage of CHA’s flexibility as an MTW agency to make flexible use of the funding and provide a wider range of housing options. At the same time, CHA is funding a liaison staff position at Transition House who will not only support the clients in the program, but will provide critical assistance to the CHA staff in responding to domestic violence issues as they arise, and assisting CHA tenants and voucher participants. Read CHA’s press release. (June 27)

On June 27, Preston Prince, Executive Director of the Fresno Housing Authority, and other community leaders presented on “A Regional Vision for Building Neighborhoods of Opportunity Through Municipal-Federal Partnerships” at the United Neighborhood Centers of America 2013 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference. They addressed a number of initiatives including Strong Cities Strong Communities, Building Neighborhood Capacity Program, and Rental Assistance Demonstration that are transforming their communities. View Fresno Housing's presentation. (June 27)

Education Assistant Tracy Revels; Mequon-Thiensville Superintendent Dr. Demond Means; Education Specialist Darrell Finch; and Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee Secretary-Executive Director Tony Pérez with student honorees Mahogany Hughes-Hinton and Kali Huettl
The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee’s annual Student Recognition Event in late June highlighted the success of the Authority’s Education Initiative and its students. HACM’s Student of the Year award was presented to Kali Huettl, who was one of only three students in the city and 1,000 across the country to be named a Gates Millenium Scholar. Kali plans on pursuing her dream of becoming a Nurse Practitioner at Clark University and would like to open her own free clinic and give back to her community when she graduates. John and Lauren Downey and their four children were recognized as Family of the Year. Both parents are enrolled in college, and their children received honors for their achievements in math, reading, science and technology. (June 27)

The “Tacoma Community College Housing Project,” a new pilot program by the Tacoma Housing Authority, aims to increase college graduation rates and get homeless students off the streets by offering rental assistance from enrollment through graduation to students in need who attend full-time and have no felonies. Shema Hanebutte, Tacoma Community College’s Dean of Counseling and Advising, says that hundreds of students live on couches, in cars or shelters due to the lack of affordable housing in the area, and most end up dropping out of college because of these unstable living situations. Applications for the program applications go out in July for the upcoming fall semester. (June 27)

Recent news coverage [includes video] of the condemned Trowbridge Apartments in El Paso, Texas emphasized the need for the housing assistance that the Housing Authority for the City of El Paso provides, and it also highlighted that demand for affordable housing far outstrips supply across the country. The need is acutely felt in El Paso, where 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and some families find themselves living in housing with severely substandard conditions such as caved-in ceilings, mold, cockroach infestations, broken windows, and lack of water, gas, air conditioning or working toilets. The lack of affordable housing in the El Paso market leaves some with no other choice, said HACEP CEO Gerald Cichon. HACEP offers families safe, decent housing, but there isn’t enough to go around, especially in the face of declining federal funding over the past few years. The agency has a wait list of over 10,000 families for public housing alone, which can lead to a five-year wait for families. (June 27)

In a recent opinion piece for the New York Daily News entitled “Innovation can save public housing,” the Manhattan Institute’s Howard Husock likened MTW to a “Race to the Top” for public housing that would combine a new way to help financially strapped agencies such as the New York City Housing Authority with a new wave of imaginative approaches. As he writes, “We only need Congress to act.” (June 26)

On June 25, the San Diego City Council authorized the San Diego Housing Commission to enter into a lease with its nonprofit affiliate Housing Development Partners to operate Parker-Kier Apartments, a rehabilitated 34-unit apartment complex that will provide affordable housing for very low-income seniors and people at risk of homelessness. SDHC, which owns the building, will be contracting with HDP for 10 years to operate Parker-Kier as permanent supportive housing for 33 residents, with one on-site manager’s unit. SDHC has also awarded 33 federal housing vouchers to HDP to support housing at Parker-Kier at an approximate annual value of $395,028 in the first year. Read SDHC’s press release. (June 25)

A recent to change to a Cook County human rights ordinance means that landlords cannot turn away potential tenants because they receive assistance through a housing choice voucher. Local housing advocates say it is “too early to tell what kind of impact this will have in affluent North Shore communities, where affordable rental options are scarce,” but that it should generally protect voucher holders from being ruled out automatically. Richard Monocchio, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Cook County, notes that the ordinance amendment is one of several recent changes aimed at giving people “the opportunity to move into communities with better access to jobs, transit and good school systems.” These include a new housing authority program offering higher rent subsidies and “efforts to streamline the housing inspection process and subsequent voucher payments to reduce the bureaucratic burden on landlords.” (June 25)

The state of California has awarded the San Diego Housing Commission a $1.5 million grant, the maximum amount under CalHome Program guidelines, to help low-income families buy their first home. The new grant increases to $6.892 million the total current funding for SDHC’s First-Time Homebuyer Program, which has helped 4,397 families since it began on August 13, 1990. Read SDHC’s press release. (June 25)

At the end of June, the DC Housing Authority held a meeting with residents of Barry Farm about possible redevelopment under HUD’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative. DCHA has received Choice Neighborhood Planning Grants for Barry Farms as well as Kenilworth Courts. On May 28, the agency applied for a planning grant for the Greenleaf complex, which comprises four city blocks and 500 units and was constructed beginning in 1959. The surrounding area has seen tremendous development, and DCHA is looking at how to bring a mix of incomes and uses to Greenleaf that will include one-to-one replacement of affordable units and enable the aging complex become self-sustaining for the next 30 to 40 years. (June 25)

Work has begun in Charlotte on a $20 million rental subsidy endowment to help homeless families, with a particular focus on veterans and low-income families with children in need of short-term support. “Nonprofit and government programs for the homeless will be streamlined to create a single intake system where all homeless families will be evaluated for the best housing program to suit their needs.” The City Council and private donors will each provide half of the funding, and “Mecklenburg County will supply thousands of dollars more for social services to help the families avoid falling back into homelessness.” Charlotte agencies working with homeless families, including the Charlotte Housing Authority, are the same ones that will benefit from the endowment, which CHA’s CEO Fulton Meachem says comes at a time when there are 114 homeless families on the agency’s waiting list. Sequestration has cut $2.5 million from CHA, resulting in layoffs and furloughs. “But at the end of the day, we still have a responsibility to provide quality homes for people in need,” Meachem says. “There’s no question we’ll be applying to the endowment.” (June 24)

A football-loving dad and resident of Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority's Hillside Community was just looking for someone to catch his throws, but he became a community leader and gave local kids a rare chance to be part of a team. With the help of friends and a recreational coordinator for the Hillside Court Partnership, Tony Lee created the Southside Soldiers, formal football program and the first organized sports team in the area’s memory. The football team and the accompanying cheerleading program have a focus on community enrichment, not just athletic accomplishment: participants had to write essays about why they wanted to join, promise to maintain their grades, and agree to do community service. It was a rough first season, but the team members refused to be discouraged, and they continue to tackle life's challenges and break down barriers through their participation. (June 21)

At the start of its Board of Commissioners meeting on June 19, the Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority awarded Tomorrow's Promise Scholarships in the amount of $4,000 each to assist six high-achieving students living in public housing with their higher education goals. The Tomorrow's Promise Fund has awarded more than $200,000 since its start in 1995. “It's not just about the scholarships,” RRHA CEO Adrienne Goolsby said to the recent graduates. “It's about what you give back in service.”  Recipients were involved in school and community organizations including the National Honor Society, the Young Adult Police Commissioners Program, the Children's Museum of Richmond, and the Interfaith Outreach United. “If kids had people to support them, there wouldn't be as many criminals,” said the mother of one of the recipients. She added that students living in public housing have dreams and goals—they just need the opportunity. Read RRHA's press release. (June 20)

Sherwin-Williams Company and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority are partnering to help residents “paint a path to self-sufficiency” through HomeWork, a two-week house-painting class. In June, 24 participants in Cleveland’s HomeWork program graduated with Renovation, Repair and Painting certificates from the Environmental Protection Agency that attest to basic painting skills, approve them for work on federally funded projects, and attract the attention of contractors. The company reports that about 65 percent of HomeWork graduates soon find jobs, and many go on to lead their own painting crews and launch companies. More than 4,000 individuals in 50 cities have participated in the class, now in its ninth year, and CMHA will have 50 graduates in in 2013 between its spring and fall classes. (June 20)

On June 19, the Urban Land Institute highlighted Paisano Senior Housing, Housing Authority of the City of El Paso's LEED Platinum senior community that uses power from a large photovoltaic array plus wind turbines to produce as much energy over a calendar year as the occupants use. One key lesson was that the energy savings “are somewhat dependent on a digital feedback loop that senior residents—many unfamiliar with computers—find hard to understand. Education is an important part of the success of the project.” (June 19)

Red Hook Farm
In mid-June, the New York City Housing Authority launched the Red Hook Urban Farm, a 1-acre urban agriculture installation and the first-ever large-scale community farm on NYCHA property. The model farm, developed on a vacant lot, will serve as a source of fresh produce for the community while also providing a center for education, job training, and community engagement for residents. Produce will be sold at farmers’ markets operated by the nonprofit group Added Value or donated to families in need, and revenue from sales will fund stipends for members of the Green City Force Clean Energy Corps, who will maintain the project. Based on this model, NYCHA is seeking providers for urban farms at five additional housing developments. Read NYCHA’s press release. (June 18)

The Philadelphia Housing Authority announced plans to partner once again with Max Spann Real Estate & Auction Co. to auction off approximately 200 more of its unused properties that it cannot afford to renovate. “The idea of an auction makes sense for the housing authority for a number of reasons,” said PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah. “First, these properties have been vacant for many years and unfortunately due to budgets cuts PHA does not have the resources to rehab or maintain these properties. Therefore, by selling the properties we will generate badly needed revenue to use on other capital projects while allowing the private market to put these houses back into service.” Read PHA’s press release. (June 18)

Four San Diego Housing Commission partnership developments and an SDHC partnership program to address chronic homelessness earned Ruby Awards, presented by the San Diego Housing Federation on June 13, as the “best of the best” in the affordable housing industry in the City of San Diego. The four developments completed in 2012 include a rescued foreclosed condominium development in North Park that received federal funds directed by SDHC; gap funding provided by SDHC to move forward a development in Barrio Logan that had been stalled for 20 years; the rehabilitation of a 100-year-old building to serve those at risk of becoming homeless, to which SDHC loaned $1.69 million; and the creation of a one-stop homeless center that received a $2 million loan and 89 federal housing vouchers from SDHC. Also recognized was the collaborative effort of SDHC and the United Way of San Diego County to provide 25 chronically homeless individuals with housing and supportive services. SDHC directed 25 federal housing vouchers to Project 25. Read SDHC’s press release. (June 13)

Hotel Churchill

On June 11, the City Council unanimously approved a plan by the San Diego Housing Commission and its nonprofit affiliate Housing Development Partners to rehabilitate Hotel Churchill, a local historical landmark, to create approximately 66 permanent affordable housing units. Hotel Churchill would remain affordable for the next 65 years. Built in 1914, Hotel Churchill is a seven-story, 94-unit building along the San Diego Trolley line in downtown San Diego that has been vacant since 2005 but will come to life as permanent affordable housing for low-income residents such as seniors and veterans. The federal funds to be used for this project consist of more than $8.296 million from the Moving to Work rental assistance program and $2.9 million from the HOME Investment Partnership Program. Read SDHC’s press release and the fact sheet. (June 11)

Following a 2012 California law that authorized landlords to prohibit smoking at their rental properties, the San Diego Housing Commission joins at least 18 other CLPHA members in adopting a smoke-free policy for all of its apartment buildings, which include more than 2,000 affordable housing units, in order to protect the health of tenants and also reduce maintenance costs by preventing smoke damage to rental units. The policy received unanimous approval on June 11 from the City Council. SDHC’s smoke-free policy will take effect on February 1, 2014, providing tenants with ample notice. Before moving forward with the policy, SDHC surveyed tenants, and a majority who responded to the survey said they prefer a smoke-free living environment. Read SDHC’s press release. (June 11).

After the city commission passed a resolution in early June showing its support, the Millville Housing Authority is now closer to making $5 million in renovations at the Holly Berry Court complex that will improve the neighborhood. The 1966 development had been slated to be demolished until Executive Director Paul Dice moved the agency’s headquarters there in 2008 to deter crime in the area. A zero-tolerance policy has helped make the neighborhood a place to live again, and residents have taken a sense of ownership, even planting flower and vegetable gardens. With the commission’s support, MHA will now apply to the state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency for help financing the project. (June 10)