Letter to City Council Regarding Review of CRHA

PHAR has submitted these written comments for Charlottesville City Council to consider as they discuss the City Manager’s review and recommendations of CRHA. Tonight (9/2) at 7:00 pm.
###

Dear City Council and City Manager Jones,

PHAR offers these comments for your consideration when evaluating the proposals made by City Manager Maurice Jones regarding the management and operations of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and housing Authority.

In late 2012 and early 2013, PHAR frequented City Council meetings asking for assistance in improving the response from CRHA to resident concerns and seeking greater accountability to and oversight from the City Council on matters pertaining to the CRHA. The CRHA in turn, requested that the City Manager review operations and management to assist them in improving operations, management, and resident relations. This process has been long, and started with some big and creative thinking. Mr. Jones presented two big ideas- a city takeover, or a series of MOUs that would seek to improve the functions of the housing authority. He came to you with recommendations in December 2013 and explained how these two ideas might come to be. While it has been a challenge for PHAR and residents to fully grasp the implications of the two scenarios, we all knew that major steps towards providing accountability to residents needed to be taken.

We are somewhat disappointed in the current recommendations in that they do not seek to make any major changes to the CRHA as compared to Mr. Jones’ initial 2013 report. We support the proposals now being made, but respectfully ask for even greater steps be taken to improve CRHA accountability to residents and the City Council.

We understand that financial considerations have led to the watering down of Mr. Jones’ original proposals. Without political support and leadership from City Council we must assume that the CRHA will likely not see any further major improvements regarding resident concerns and quality of life in public housing. We ask that you approve the expenditure of funds for the three positions currently being recommended and to consider that since these require a mild amount of funding from the Affordable Housing Fund, that the City Council can and should have some measurement of positive successes regarding self sufficiency, maintenance, and redevelopment efforts that respect the Residents Bill of Rights for Redevelopment and that pay attention to Charlottesville’s history regarding efforts towards redevelopment. The use of city funds may be the only way to hold the CRHA accountable to the city.

Unresponsive Housing Authority
To give some examples of long standing issues that have not been addressed by CRHA staff, despite city interaction, might be helpful in understanding the challenges faced. In late 2012 and early 2013 PHAR requested that CRHA negotiate a policy for improved use of the community centers, as allowed under HUD regulation 964 in 24 C.F.R. Since that time, and despite numerous requests from PHAR the CRHA has simply not committed to finalizing a policy. The latest request was completely ignored by CRHA Board and Staff and has put PHAR in the awkward position of filing an informal complaint with the Richmond field office. This issue has been a year and half in the making, and could have been finalized over a year ago.

Similarly, the CRHA passed a new trespassing policy in December 2012. At the time, all parties agreed that the current “barred list” needed to be revised and edited to meet the new standards, and remove names that were wrongly included on the list. This effort was to be completed in short order by both CRHA and the police. Coming up on two years now the list is still in disarray, to the point that the Charlottesville Police Department will not enforce the list due to inconsistencies. This has led to potential harm to the community and the presence of outsiders seeking to make trouble on housing authority property.

CRHA staff responsiveness to residents and to the CRHA board can be witnessed in full by reviewing the minutes for the last two meetings. Board packets were never issued, decisions made by the board were ignored regarding eviction policy draft changes, and negotiations over use of the community centers, both are long standing issues years in the queue. These issues,and many more, show some of the challenges faced by PHAR and the CRHA Board of Directors. The CRHA Board is now fully functioning, but as witnessed recently, even a functioning and capable board have challenges in holding the CRHA staff accountable.

Examples of Past City Involvement Failing to Provide Accountability
PHAR has a hard time picturing how the current recommendations will keep this behavior from continuing. Mr. Jones does propose better board training, but fails to offer an accountability piece, and assuming that City Council is not interested in providing financial support for board training there seems to be no mechanism for providing that layer of accountability. Mr. Jones does recommend frequent meetings with the City, CRHA, and PHAR to address key issues and resolve disputes. We welcome these frequent “internal team” meetings but must point out that PHAR tried to establish monthly meetings with Executive Director upon her coming to the CRHA and our efforts were rebuffed despite the encouragement of high ranking city officials. Other attempts at similar meetings have typically been called as a result of a crisis (such as PHAR opposing RAD and CRHA not giving adequate attention to residents in pursuing this major change to public housing). These recent meetings have failed to move things forward due mainly to a lack of commitment from CRHA towards working together. If we are to have team meetings, PHAR asks that these meetings provide concrete work plans for all parties and a way to hold all parties accountable to commitments made.

PHAR has trust in city staff and this is why we have consistently asked for greater involvement. We have witnessed, as have your staff, the inability or lack of desire from CRHA staff to work collaboratively with city staff and PHAR in the past. As redevelopment proceeds, we hope that the city will take all steps possible to ensure CRHA communication with the City and PHAR. A redevelopment coordinator could be one channel for ensuring this communication, but could become an exercise in futility if there is no accountability piece providing for resident engagement and CRHA collaboration. Using City funds towards this effort may be the only way to ensure accountability to a mutually agreed upon process, we ask that the City outline standards and measures to make sure this happens. PHAR respectfully asks that an MOU be drafted for the City, CRHA, and PHAR to codify a process that respects all parties’ involvement in decision making regarding redevelopment.

PHAR Supports Current Recommendations

PHAR supports the current recommendations, and would like to offer thoughts for your consideration.

Self-Sufficiency Specialist- PHAR also runs a self-sufficiency program through a ROSS grant from HUD. PHAR efforts have been hampered by lack of collaboration and coordination with CRHA staff despite requests for frequent contact and referrals. We assume that a City sponsored Self-Sufficiency program provides CRHA staff a way to further by-pass PHAR efforts in this matter. We ask that consideration be given to avoiding duplication of efforts, and towards collaboration with our ROSS program. We ask that serious consideration be given towards prevention coordination as that position has been eliminated by the CRHA. We also ask that City Council increase attention to providing more economic opportunities for all of Charlottesville’s low income people.

In concert with self-sufficiency efforts, we highly welcome the presence of the new Jobs Center on public housing sites, we are happy to collaborate on making this program work for all. New equipment, especially computers, may be needed on CRHA sites to ensure that this effort is meaningful.

Modernization/Maintenance Supervisor- we welcome this position to the CRHA, and have consistently asked for this position to be created. We ask that a measurement of improvements be provided to City Council to evaluate the effective expenditure of Council funds for this position.

Redevelopment Coordinator- it is unclear which body this position would be supervised by. We know that serious decisions about how to proceed with redevelopment will be made soon. We insist that the postion not be supervised directly by the CRHA as their efforts on redevelopment have excluded resident participation. We insist that regardless of which body the coordinator be supervised by that frequent reports be made by the coordinator to City Council. We also insist that a clear job description be established and that the coordinator has adequate knowledge of the history of Charlottesville’s public housing, past efforts towards redevelopment, current efforts towards redevelopment, and a clear understanding of PHAR and resident desires for collaboration towards positive and successful redevelopment of public housing. PHAR continues to insist that steps forward on redevelopment must begin with crafting a clear plan for relocation of residents during redevelopment.

Human Resources- we are happy to see the City provide much needed oversight of human resources for the CRHA. We ask that efforts towards Section 3 enforcement be redoubled and that outreach concerning Section 3 resume. We also ask for frequent reports to Council regarding Section 3 enforcement and meeting HUD mandated goals for resident employment. We are happy to see City provided training for CRHA staff and ask that immediate attention be given towards the training of current staff who have recently been subject to consolidation of duties. We ask that Human Resources coordinate with the newly established CRHA personnel committee.

Police Presence- PHAR advises that greater police presence be undertaken only with consent of the community and under clear guidelines established by residents. The bulk of comments we hear from residents are that police interactions with residents are negative. Lack of respect and assumption of guilt are consistent complaints PHAR hears from residents about police. While residents are concerned about safety in the neighborhoods, they are quick to point out that police interaction is seldom positive when they are around and that response on matters requiring immediate attention is slow. Simply stating that residents are asking for increased police presence is a misstatement of a much more nuanced concern that residents have. Further, we point to the barred list as being a critical issue that needs to be sorted out immediately. We ask for a meeting between the Chief of Police and PHAR before strategic planning is conducted by the police department. We request consistent meetings with police at resident services meetings and monthly reports to the CRHA Board as was the practice in the past.

Furthering City Involvement

We have a clear understanding that City Council will have limited opportunities to increase accountability from CRHA if funding is not attached to recommendations. CRHA thus far has proven that coordination with the city and actions on past recommendations have not occurred simply by request of PHAR or the City. With this in mind we ask for the City to continue to investigate ways to improve the CRHA’s functioning, to address the myriad needs of residents, and to provide appropriate funding to implement methods to improve the management and function of CRHA including revisiting a potential city takeover of CRHA or additional MOUs to improve management. We also ask that you consider the following:

-          Funding for the reestablishment of the Prevention Coordinator position to reduce lease violations and evictions.

-          Immediate investigation of CRHA hiring and dismissal practices including Section 3 implementation and potential equal opportunity violations that may result in litigation.

-          A signed MOU between the City of Charlottesville, PHAR, and CRHA that outlines specifics regarding process for redevelopment and that ensures “meaningful and enforceable resident participation will guide all substantial decisions about redevelopment”.

-          Joint work session between City Council and CRHA to address concerns and implement recommendations.

-          Frequent reports from CRHA Director to Charlottesville City Council highlighting progress made towards improving management of CRHA and efforts towards redevelopment.
Finally, PHAR hopes that City Council will approve Mr. Jones’ recommendations with the assumption that this is merely a first step towards making improvements to the housing authority. Much work is still to be done and we hope that the City of Charlottesville will monitor progress and continue to assist in improving CRHA’s management, functions, and future.

Respectfully and on Behalf of PHAR’s Board of Directors,

Brandon Collins, Organizer

Posted in Uncategorized.

PHAR Elections 2014!

Make Sure You Return Your Ballot for the 2014 Election to the PHAR Board of Directors!

Help make sure your choices join our board to set a course for a positive future for all residents!

Ballots were included in your August rent statement.
The deadline for returning your ballot is August 25, 2014

Mail or Hand Deliver to:

PHAR Elections 2014
c/o Brenda Casteneda
1000 Preston Ave
Charlottesville, Va 22903

If you need help submitting your ballot,
call PHAR at (434) 984-3255 and we will make sure
your ballot gets collected in a safe and secure way!
If you need a stamped and addressed envelope to return your ballot just let us know!

Cast Your Vote for a Positive Future! Your Voice Matters!

Posted in Uncategorized.

PHAR Elections 2014- Nominations Now Being Accepted!

Please volunteer to run for election to PHAR’s Board of Directors

or nominate someone you know to run!

The Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) will be holding elections for its Board of Directors this summer.  The Board is composed of 10 elected members and 5 appointed members. Board members attend PHAR Board meetings once a month, bring concerns from their sites, turn out other residents to meetings and actions, and share information with residents at their sites.  We are now looking for volunteers to run for election to the PHAR Board!

Who can run for a seat on the Board?

All residents of Charlottesville public housing are members of PHAR.  Each member whose name appears on a CRHA lease and who is either the head of household (any age) OR at least 16 years of age shall have the right to vote for Board members, as well as to nominate someone to run for the Board and is also be eligible to be nominated to run for a seat on the PHAR Board.   Nominees for a seat on the Board must live in a public housing development.

What positions on the PHAR Board are open?

Elected representation among public housing sites is distributed as follows:

  • Large Housing sites [Crescent Hall, South First Street, Westhaven] elect 2 representatives each, and
  • Smaller Housing sites [Madison Avenue, Michie Drive, Sixth Street, Riverside/Scattered Sites] elect four representatives collectively. 

How to nominate someone to run for the PHAR Board, or volunteer yourself:

Any PHAR member may nominate themselves and/or any other eligible person for a seat on the PHAR Board of Directors by sending the name(s) and contact information (address, telephone numbers) of nominee(s) to:

PHAR, 1000 Preston Ave., Suite C, Charlottesville, Virginia, or

email brenda@justice4all.org, or fax (434)977-0558 or call 984-3255 (PHAR).

Nominations are due July 23rd

Posted in Uncategorized.

May 6- Online Giving Day SUPPORT PHAR

Hello PHAR Freedom Fighters!

Wishing you could help PHAR further our mission to Empower Low Income Residents to Protect and Improve Our Own Communities Through Collective Action?

May 6th is your chance is to help us raise much needed funds to continue to meet our mission and meet the challenges residents of public housing will be facing this year!

During the 24 hours of May 6th, 2014, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation is hosting Give4Good – Greater Charlottesville.  On May 6th, every dollar you donate to PHAR will be stretched by up to $16,000 in matching funds and $16,000 in prize money.   Help us reach our goal of $25,000 by donating at: http://givegreatercville.org/#npo/charlottesville-public-housing-association-of-residents on May 6th!

Ways You Can Help
- Mark your calendar for May 6 to make your donation (see widget on the right!)

- Share http://givegreatercville.org/#npo/charlottesville-public-housing-association-of-residents with everyone you know via e-mail!

- share PHAR’s website or the Give4Good page on facebook

- like our facebook page- and share and post often! help us build the buzz!

- copy and paste this post and send as an e-mail- be sure to send a personal note telling all of your friends why supporting PHAR is important!

Thanks! Hope to be sending lots of thank you notes to all who donate!

Why Your Support is Needed
PHAR has consistently been a voice for residents of public housing and low-income people in our community. Through community organizing, our internship program, services coordination, and individual advocacy PHAR has improved the lives of thousands of residents by educating residents about their rights, giving resident input into decision making, supporting resident desires, addressing resident concerns, and standing up for low-income people in Charlottesville and nationwide.

PHAR relies on a small, hardworking, staff to bring about change in the community and public housing neighborhoods. PHAR relies on donors like you to help fund our organization as we stand up and speak out for a better life for all people. This year will see many changes to public housing and the re-starting of much needed redevelopment of public housing in Charlottesville. PHAR feels that residents should have a say in the future of their communities and redevlopment. Help PHAR to make sure that residents are at the table and that decision makers will abide by the Residents’ Bill of Rights for Redevelopment by making your donation on May 6th!

Posted in Uncategorized.

2014 PHAR Internship Program- We Want You!

Now recruiting for the

PHAR Internship Program!

Do you care about your community? Want to learn how to make a difference?

  • Develop your leadership skills, knowledge and involvement
  • Earn 11.00/hour stipend. (not included in rent calculation!)
  • Commit to work up to 10 hours a week.
  • Program lasts for 6 months, starting in about 2 weeks.
  • Public Housing and Section 8 Residents can apply

 Call PHAR at (434) 984-3255 to schedule an interview,

OR Intern Application 2014 and bring or mail to

PHAR’s office 1000 Preston Ave, Suite C 

HURRY, this opportunity won’t last long,

Bring/send your application by noon on Monday, April 28 please!

Posted in Uncategorized.

Congratulations to PHAR Interns!

PHAR is proud and humbled to announce the successful completion of the PHAR Internship Program for 2013.
On February 11 the interns graduated from the program and received their certificates of completion, the event was well attended, and featured keynote speaker Holly Edwards, former vice-mayor of the City of Charlottesville.

PHAR is grateful and proud for all of the hard work and successes of our interns!

Congratulations to:
Sabrina Allen
Mary Faulkner
Christine Hester
Jamika Moore

2014 intern graduation w HollyThese 4 women brought energy, motivation, and critical thinking skills to to PHAR. Their successes were many and have an effect on their personal lives, the loves of public housing residents in Charlottesville, and have made a huge contribution to justice in public housing nationwide for their organizing work on RAD.

Among their many accomplishments were:
Job training and employment readiness- all four gaining employment at some point in the program

Meeting their personal goals and resolving issues
with the CRHA, work, and the schools

Applying for and being appointed
to the CRHA Board of Commissioners (congratulations Commissioner Allen!)

Drafting and advocating
for an expanded eviction prevention policy

Documenting Mold
and air quality issues in public housing

And finally- taking a stand against RAD
, the HUD program being considered by CRHA. PHAR could not have made the gains it did without the strong minds and able bodies of our 4 interns. Interns were critical in organizing residents to attend meetings, educating residents, educating residents and advocates nationwide, setting up trainings, speaking out and speaking up. They informed every document put out by PHAR concerning RAD including public comment, fact sheets, and list of 143 questions still unanswered by RAD. They learned about the effects and processes of RAD in other communities, and sent a Intern Letter to Residents explaining what RAD is all about. Their impact has been huge! CRHA realized it was not prepared to make a decision about RAD in 2013. Guarantees have been made if the discussion is to move forward. If RAD becomes inevitable it will only happen with resident support and will have to ultimately benefit residents and be decided by residents on their own terms. Residents around the country have felt the impact of intern organizing on RAD! Residents are learning from PHAR’s example that decision making on RAD has to be on resident terms! PHAR is very proud of the history these women have made in their organizing efforts!

Congratulations and Thank You!

Posted in Uncategorized.

PHAR trip to Hopewell- RAD

On Jnauary 10, 2014, PHAR Interns organized a trip to Hopewell, Va to learn more about RAD. Hopewell was in the process of making the conversion. PHAR learned a lot about RAD (and Hopewell) and we want to share that information with you!

Feel free to review the power point presentation about the trip. Make sure to contact PHAR anytime about how to get involved in organizing around RAD brandon@pharcville.org

Here’s the Hopwell RAD Powerpoint

langston backside

Posted in Uncategorized.

Resident Training: RAD-What Residents Need to Know January 23

RENTAL ASSISTANCE DEMONSTRATION

aka
RAD
Want to Learn More about RAD and how it will affect residents in public housing?

Learn More from a Resident Perspective!!!

Join Ed Gramlich from the
National Low Income Housing Coalition and PHAR for:
“RAD- Key Features for Public Housing Residents”
a training and question and answer session focused on
resident rights, responsibilities and concerns.

Thursday, January 23
2:00 pm
and again at
5:30 pm
City Hall in City Council Chambers
(across from free speech wall, second floor city hall)

logo

Posted in Uncategorized.

Support PHAR in 2014- Make Your Donation Today

Greetings, this holiday season of giving.  This is a time of the year when many reflect on how fortunate they are, and are more conscious of those who are not as fortunate and want to do more to help them.  It is a time when we also look forward to a better year in 2014.

Visit us on-line to make your contribution.

Our town, a beautiful city of national historic significance is home to a diverse population of social, economic and ethnic backgrounds and the University of Virginia (UVA).  The attractiveness of Charlottesville and UVA, have brought many to our city, increasing both the demand for housing, and housing costs that have most adversely affected the affordable housing available to low income households.

Affordable housing for many low income families in Charlottesville is Public Housing – 376 units managed by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA). To provide a voice for Charlottesville public housing residents in the decisions that affect their lives, The Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) was founded fifteen years ago.

PHAR has progressed to become one of the strongest and most well-known resident organizations in the country. PHAR’s governing board is made up entirely of people living in public housing. PHAR’s Advisory Council is made up of other community partners. PHAR’s mission is to educate and organize low income people to protect and improve our own community through collective action. PHAR advocates and organizes in our community for systemic changes and assists residents to improve their quality of life.

PHAR’s programs and activities positively impact the lives of residents of public housing:

  • The six month Internship program develops individual advocacy and leadership skills: Interns learn about public housing, local government, community organizing and public speaking. Graduates of PHAR’s intern program serve on local and national boards. More than 80% of intern graduates (excluding elderly or disabled) find employment or continue their education. Last year an intern graduate and his family celebrated their first Thanksgiving in their new Habitat home.
  • The Residents’ Bill of Rights ensures that residents can return after completion of any CRHA redevelopment.
  • Residents are represented at and encouraged to attend City or CRHA meetings affecting public housing in Charlottesville.
  • Residents are informed of any prospective policy changes affecting their tenancy and the consequences of these changes.
  • PHAR’s Resident Opportunities and Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) Program links residents to community educational and job training opportunities and supportive services that promote independence and self- sufficiency and help elderly and disabled residents age in place.

Whether it involves attending meetings or issuing newsletters, brochures or speaking engagements, PHAR seeks to inform residents, community groups, legislators and social policy makers about the current needs, problems and accomplishments of Charlottesville public housing residents.  Our ultimate aim is to demonstrate that all citizens are important and can play a role in making a community active and viable.

Your contribution goes directly to supporting our efforts to achieve socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in Charlottesville have affordable and decent housing. We are not a United Way funded agency.  Contributions to PHAR are tax deductible.

Visit us on-line to contribute via PayPal.

…or mail a check made out to Public Housing Association of Residents to:
PHAR
1000 Preston Ave, Suite C
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Thank you for your support. Your generosity and kindness is much appreciated.

Happy Holidays!
Sincerely,

Sabrina Allen                                  Shymora Cooper                                      Jane Foster
Intern                                          Board of Directors                                  Advisory Council

Posted in Uncategorized.

NO R.A.D. in 2013- comments from Oct. 28

PHAR’s submitted comments about RAD.
Say No to RAD in 2013 !!!

To: CRHA Board of Commissioners and Executive Director Constance Dunn
Re: PHAR Initial Comments and Questions regarding RADSabrina 10.28 CRHA

PHAR seeks to protect and improve our own communities. We acknowledge that the disrepair of public housing in Charlottesville demands serious efforts towards redevelopment. However, the state of disrepair is a result of decades of neglect, and a lack of local and national support for serious and meaningful redevelopment and capital improvement. It is with this understanding that we offer some preliminary and initial comments, concerns and questions regarding Rental Assistance Demonstration.

To be clear, we are opposed to any application for RAD in 2013.

Process
RAD presents a huge shift in how public housing in Charlottesville is funded and operated. In fact, it eliminates “public housing” and replaces it with another model. That model, we are told, is based on how private housing would work. With the conversion comes many changes in policies, requirements, accountability, and drastically impacts the future of affordable housing. These changes are radical, and require a community wide discussion about the possible ramifications and application of RAD in Charlottesville.

That discussion has not happened. Any serious process regarding redevelopment needs to adhere to the unanimously adopted Residents Bill of Rights for Redevelopment. The simple first steps and groundwork for considering such a huge change would have been to educate residents first, and then approach PHAR for initial conversations about how this could, or could not, be applied in Charlottesville and how it compares to other funding options. A serious conversation about the need for funding redevelopment should begin with multiple funding options, not with only one option. From there a process should be crafted jointly which provides for more than token resident input into predetermined results. Residents ultimately should have the final say in whether a change of this magnitude is take place. Unfortunately, the rush to investigate and inform came from the top down with no initial input or discussion with residents or the duly elected advisory board. We understand that HUD does not require this kind of resident led planning, but we expect Charlottesville to meet the minimum requirements laid forth in the Residents Bill of Rights, but to also strive to go above and beyond the low bar set by HUD in regards to resident participation into matters that affect them gravely. Even now, despite the CRHA stating that it would not apply for RAD in 2013, and amid the Executive Director’s notice for applying for RAD, there have been no discussions with PHAR or residents about how this could be applied or if it is necessary, determine desired outcomes, or “setting a meaningful and enforceable process” to guide “substantive decisions about redevelopment”. To be clear, resident participation in such a major change must go beyond a handful of resident meetings where no specific information is offered and no questions are answered much less any response or reflection of resident concerns. Residents are still trying to get questions answered. Until those questions are answered there is no way to give concerns. In most instances residents don’t know which questions to ask. Training on RAD has been limited as far as public participation is concerned. We ask for more training that is resident friendly and allows all members of the public to participate and ask questions.

PHAR is encouraged by the recent agreement to have a series of information sessions for residents run jointly by the City of Charlottesville, CRHA, and PHAR.

We recommend that those information sessions should not be considered “resident meetings” under the HUD process for a RAD application submission. Rather, they should be a point at which residents can begin to formulate questions and ponder concerns, with the “resident meetings” to be held at a much later date. These information sessions will not produce fruit until more training is available.

We understand the rush to apply before 2013. The 93% subsidy lock-in is meaningful (although that in itself leads to many questions). However, two months is not enough time for the CRHA to perform even a semblance of due diligence, meet the HUD requirements for reporting, include a meaningful resident participation process, and preparing for the rigorous and speedy requirements expected once approval from HUD is given. Simply put, residents are unprepared, PHAR is unprepared, CRHA staff is unprepared, and the CRHA Board of Commissioners is unprepared to make a decision that impacts that future of publicly protected and affordable housing in Charlottesville. A great deal of work for the application is necessary, an even greater amount is necessary once approval is given. We are told that RAD could be stopped at any point if residents do not want it. We appreciate the sentiment, but the 2013 annual plan has already addressed this and it reflects one of many promises made by CRHA broken.

Residents are speaking now, the message is clear: Do Not Apply for RAD in 2013.

In summary, a process that might work if we were to all take a step back might include;

-          Initial discussions about the need for funding redevelopment that involves all options;

-          Setting a mutually agreed upon process for determining resident approval;

-          Consensus on whether or not RAD is an acceptable option to consider;

-          Initial workshops and information sessions about the need for the funding, and some potential benefits and negatives concerning RAD;

-          Followed by trainings for staff, city, PHAR and residents;

-          More workshops and info sessions for resident guided outcomes;

-          Followed by CRHA and PHAR consensus to pursue RAD further and issue public notices;

-          Information sessions at all of the sites at multiple times explaining potential RAD specifics  in Charlottesville and based on past resident input;

-          Public comment;

-          Followed by multiple “resident meetings” exceeding HUD requirements;

-          Polling of residents;

-          Responses and adjustments to questions and concerns;

-          A final poll of residents determining support or non-support.

If this process were to begin now, the results of the City Manager’s stretch objectives should be known and incorporated into any process or decision making regarding RAD.

This is workable process, but which cannot be performed in haste before the December 2013 deadline. In any event, no process should be taken with a predetermined outcome, and no process however good can ensure PHAR or resident support for RAD moving forward.

Uncertainties

The conversation around RAD has been riddled with uncertainties. Some of the uncertainties are based on questions about HUD/RAD process and administration. Others are related to the specifics of how, where, and when RAD would be applied in Charlottesville. Other uncertainties surround the impacts on current and future residents, and the effect on affordable housing in Charlottesville. Without clear answers to questions, specifics of the program in Charlottesville, and clear and enforceable commitments and guarantees from the CRHA and the City of Charlottesville we see no reason to support RAD in any form. The pitfalls are too numerous to mention, and plenty that we are yet unaware of. Uncertainty is a dangerous place to put low-income residents of Charlottesville in and a terrible place to leave the city when it comes to long term protection of affordable housing.

There will be no PHAR support of a RAD application with the following uncertainties left  unaddressed:

-          Agreement between CRHA, the City of Charlottesville, the CDC, and PHAR that all redevelopment funding options have been explored;

-          A relocation plan must be communicated, agreed to by residents, and detailed fully before any RAD application is submitted;

-          Enforceable commitments to protect the converted units as affordable in perpetuity must be given before any RAD application is submitted;

-          Enforceable commitments that the “de minimus” will not be used;

-          Enforceable commitments that public housing sites will remain where they are;

-          Details, including income levels and numbers of units, regarding potential mixed-income development and de-concentration strategies;

-          Clarity and details on all aspects of submission requirements, including those required once approved, before an application is considered;

-          All details regarding funding, investors, timelines and tax credits must be known before any RAD application is submitted;

-          All details regarding changes to resident protections, leases, processes communicated to residents. All differences between the current ACOP and a future Section 8 administration plan known, and processes in place for public participation in the crafting of these plans;

-          Clarity on the waivers of HUD regulation that CRHA will seek must be known before an application is submitted.

-          Clarity and agreement on how RAD affects City of Charlottesville planning for affordable housing, including but not limited to the SIA before any RAD application is submitted;

-          Clarity and details regarding oversight, accountability, and jurisdiction by HUD, the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act, the CRHA, and the City of Charlottesville;

-          Clarity and agreement on the makeup and function of the CRHA Board of Directors;

-          Enforceable commitments to include resident participation in CRHA governance by way of resident commissioners;

-          Results of the City Manager’s stretch objectives known before an application is considered;

-          Results of a social impact study known before any RAD application is considered;

-          Strict adherence to the Residents Bill of Rights for Redevelopment in spirit and in law;

-          Final decision making authority in the hands of residents;

-          A mutually agreed upon process for meaningful and enforceable process.

The above are initial uncertainties that once addressed do not ensure PHAR support of RAD. They are the bare minimum by which we would consider support of a RAD application.

Potential Negative Impacts

PHAR is concerned about every aspect regarding RAD. RAD represents a substantive change for public housing. This is quite literally the most important decision regarding public housing in Charlottesville since urban renewal. The consequences of Vinegar Hill are well documented, and the effects still impact the community negatively 50 years later. PHAR will not support any program in public housing that may recreate or re-formulate the disaster that was urban renewal in Charlottesville. Our concerns are many, but a few are highlighted here:

-          Bad process. As mentioned above, the process thus far has been inadequate. Questions linger, decisions seem to have been made from the top down, and the rush to submit an application is underway. This is not a responsible way to seek to improve a community. The residents Bill of Rights has been violated already when it comes to participation, and many aspects of RAD point to possible violations of other parts of the Bill of Rights. We have a hard time trusting a housing authority that has such a bad track record at abiding by the Residents Bill of Rights. A RAD program in Charlottesville will become a nightmare if residents are not driving the discussion, planning, and decision making including the financing.

-          Loss of affordable housing. Currently, despite its flaws and underfunding, the 376 units of public housing remain the only existing affordable housing that is protected forever. The RAD conversion sets a potential timeline for the reduction of Charlottesville’s affordable housing stock, leaving uncertainty as to whether at least 376 units will remain affordable in this rapidly changing city. Tax credits run out, mistakes get made, mortgages and contracts expire. Despite HUD assurance about the renewal of these contracts, there are many holes and ways that protections could disappear. In 15, 20, 30, or 40 years decisions could be made to eliminate these units as affordable, or to relocate affordable units to other parts of the city. UVA has a growth plan, known by the city of Charlottesville, that seeks to have the housing market address student, faculty and staff housing close to the University. While this may not be in the immediate plans, decades down the road the property at Westhaven will be especially enticing to developers. With protections removed the entire community at Westhaven could be dramatically changed or the very least, turned into market rate. While SIA follows a different model, the uncertainty and potential vulnerability of CRHA units in the SIA could face a similar fate. While there may still be a place for affordable housing in Charlottesville, communities would be dispersed and dismantled. It wouldn’t necessarily happen overnight, but decades down the road decisions will be made. If the units were to remain public, they would be protected from these decisions.

-          Income targeting and household composition. By converting under RAD the CRHA could change its income targeting to include those with higher incomes. Further, if the 50% conversion per development were to be waived, the potential for shutting out very-low income families in favor of elderly and disabled units would leave hundreds out of accessing affordable housing in Charlottesville.

-          Mobility vouchers. A dangerous incentive to consider. HUD promotes the idea of this allowing residents a choice to move if they do not like the new system under RAD. However, if the vouchers are unavailable, as they are now, it is hard to see how this would work. Further, if a large number of current residents were to take advantage of the mobility vouchers, those at the bottom of the list will continuously remain at the bottom of the list. There are many questions surrounding the coordination of the current Section 8 waiting list and a waiting list under RAD. While the public housing waiting list is long, the Section 8 list is shut down almost perpetually. Mobility vouchers will not do anything to reduce either waiting list, and will have the effect of keeping the waiting list closed in perpetuity, with those waiting the longest still waiting. RAD, the mobility vouchers, and the combined waiting lists will have no positive effect on reducing the numbers of families seeking affordable housing in Charlottesville.

-          Regulation and Oversight. The full impacts of the changes from HUD oversight and regulation are yet to be known. The housing authority will no longer report to HUD in depth the way they do now. The ACOP will be replaced with an administration plan. The differences in these plans, regulations governing them, and public input into policies are not fully detailed. RAD funding should not be a backdoor to eliminating resident protections or benefits. Conversion could also mandate a change in CRHA Board governance, appointments, composition, and function. The details of governance are not known to anyone at this time. The City of Charlottesville is currently reviewing how it might improve the functioning of the housing authority, the results of this review should be know before a RAD application is submitted, and the administration of the RAD program needs to be understood and integrated into the City Manager’s proposals.

-          Funding Alternatives. PHAR believes that a full understanding about all of the options for funding redevelopment does not currently exist. RAD is only one option. Discussions have been had in the past regarding what options there are for funding redevelopment. The CDC was supposed to have played a role in this decision. Creative thinking and alternatives need to be explored. How do we know that RAD is better than other options. We will not be able to answer that question until we know details on the property values, potential ways to develop undeveloped land, potential partnerships and other types of leverage. PHAR stated, as a compromise regarding the SIA, that we consider two options for funding redevelopment: conversion or project based (RAD) and a private style model, or using leverage and mixed-income and retaining public housing. Our choice remains retaining the 376 units as public housing and protected affordable housing.

-          Relocation. The next step in any of the progress on redevelopment needs to be relocation. Any decision about funding will need to rely on what the CRHA’s approach to relocation is. This affects all aspects of redevelopment, but especially capital items. An understanding of demolition of renovation cannot be had until a basic understanding and agreed upon plan for relocation has occurred. Our original understanding was that Levy Avenue would be developed first as way to handle relocation while renovation or rebuilding at the other sites was underway. Is this still the plan? RAD seems to negate the efficacy of this plan. The details of this plan must be known by residents, it is the number one concern outside of “right to return” that residents have. Relocation cannot be known or agreed to until the specifics and makeup of redevelopment of existing sites is known and understood. Without a relocation plan a RAD application puts the cart before the horse.

Attached is a list of questions. We demand that these questions are answered and considered by CRHA Commissioners. It is not a comprehensive list, merely a start. One can easily see that these are too many unanswered questions to be able to make a decision on RAD. Thus, we find that making a decision about RAD in haste is poor judgment and bad stewardship of public housing in Charlottesville. We will certainly have more questions. We warn against using HUD process concerning responses to our concerns and questions allowing for token input into predetermined outcomes. Our opposition to a RAD application 2013 is two-fold and simple:

1.      We don’t have all the answers to some of the questions.

2.      What we do know is unacceptable.

We ask that the CRHA table this conversation on RAD, to not apply in 2013, to begin an open and thorough evaluation of all funding options for redevelopment, respect and coordinate with the City Manager’s stretch objectives, and re-start a process for establishing the CDC.

Posted in Uncategorized.