New Partners, Broader Visions Focus of Denver Meeting

At the core of CLPHA’s June 23-25 meeting in Denver were the new partnerships housing authorities are building on all levels, and the bigger roles they are playing in driving community revitalization.

From the tour of the ambitious Union Station redevelopment plan to a panel on tackling homelessness, it is clear that housing authorities are successfully reaching out to new public and private partners and taking a larger view of their role as community developers.

The discussion and presentations were future oriented, focusing on the new opportunities for and achievements by PHAs. As CLPHA president Michael Kelly put it, "there is a tsunami of social change taking place through public housing."

Touring Denver's Transit Oriented Developments

Wednesday's three-site tour began at Union Station, a transit hub that will link downtown to suburbs, tech areas, and the distant airport. Bus, light rail, and commuter rail will converge on the site, which will be part of a distinctive, walkable, mixed-use community.  Funded through a “hodgepodge” of federal and state grants, affordable housing will be located at the site or developed within one-two train stops. “We are looking at the housing not just in one area,” said Ismael Guerrero, Executive Director, Denver Housing Authority (DHA). “We are looking regionally.” He said DHA is building more and broader partnerships and learning more about potential financing opportunities. Read More >

Corridors of Opportunity – Linking Transit, Public Housing Across Cities and Agencies

The Denver, San Antonio, and San Diego housing authorities outlined their transit oriented development (TOD) efforts during the meeting’s first panel.

The Denver Housing Authority (DHA) is front and center in an ambitious plan to fully realize the potential of a proposed 12.1 mile light rail line. Called the West Corridor, it will run from Denver’s Union Station through the city of Lakewood, to the Denver Federal Center, and on to the Jefferson County Government Center. It is part of FasTracks, a plan approved by voters in 2004 that includes 122 miles of new commuter and light rail lines. Read More >

Case Studies on Creating Sustainable Communities

The second panel on Thursday focused on strategies for creating sustainable communities. Kim Hosken, Johnson Controls, opened the discussion by emphasizing the need to question every assumption and calculation when planning and implementing green measures. She stressed that sustainability is a process, and reviewed the steps she takes with clients in developing green plans. She highlighted various tools that measure sustainability, including the LEED scorecards, Green Compass, and Energy Star. She said that while these tools should not necessarily determine which strategies to implement, they are a great starting point for measuring energy use and setting priorities.

She closed with a story about how a retail chain in Chile was able to reduce its escalator energy consumption by 30 percent. The manager simply slowed the escalator speed by three seconds from the default setting, questioning an assumption of optimal speed determined years earlier by marketing data.

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Interagency Panel Demonstrates Federal Partnership

The administration’s commitment to working across silos was on display during Thursday’s final panel. Regional representatives from HUD, EPA, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Highway Administration talked about the implications of the HUD-DOT-EPA “Partnership for Sustainable Communities.”

Cindy Cody, Sustainability Coordinator, EPA, opened the discussion saying “the gap has been closed. One year ago, I didn’t know where the HUD office was. Now we are meeting every week.”  She said EPA had been added to the partnership to address water infrastructure, and the agency leadership was working hard to make sure the interagency partnership is integrated at all levels.

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Strategies for Ending Homelessness

Patrick Coyle, Director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs' Housing Division, opened Friday's meeting. The former executive director of Denver's Road Home, he talked about the importance of changing the image of public housing. He said in Colorado they were also working to change the concept of the "worthy" and "unworthy" poor. "We have to acknowledge that people aren't perfect."  He also said that "ending homelessness is not a matter of resources, but of priorities."

The panel that followed, moderated by Denver's Road Home Executive Director Amber Callender, focused on the innovative strategies and partnerships being used by the Denver, Portland, and Washington D.C. authorities to tackle homelessness.

Denver's Road Home is the result of an innovative partnership between Denver and the Mile High United Way (MHUW), said Housing Manager Debra Gray. MHUW serves as the fiscal agent and fundraising arm for the program, which includes collaboration with the city’s human services department to better coordinate systems of care.

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PETRA Discussions Continuing

The conversion of public housing was at the forefront of the three-day CLPHA meeting, and was the topic of many conversations. Near the end of the final day, Barbara Sard, Senior Advisor to Secretary Donovan on Rental Assistance, shared the latest thinking at HUD about the Preservation, Enhancement, and Transformation of Rental Assistance Act of 2010 (PETRA).

She described Secretary Donovan’s vision for successful rental assistance programs as preserving the existing stock, making the stock sustainable for the future, and making the programs work better for residents and HUD. She emphasized that while preservation was a key component of the Secretary’s vision, it is but one component.

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HUD Panel Covers Wide Range of Topics

Delton Nichols, Deputy Director of the Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC), and Dominique Blom, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Housing Investment, were the final speakers.

Mr. Nichols reported on efforts underway to improve operations under the direction of David Vargas, newly appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of REAC.  He noted that since coming to REAC, Vargas has taken a pro-active approach towards assessment of all operations, especially as PHAS 3 is implemented, conforming PHAS with asset management.

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