On April 23, 2015, PHAR, along with the NAACP and the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center co-hosted a candidates forum focused on improving the health of the African American community in Charlottesville.
All 5 announced candidates were in attendance and answered a variety of questions regarding the police, education, city planning, and jobs.
In addition to the questions asked at the forum, candidates submitted answers to a questionnaire sent in advance. NAACP Candidate Forum 2015 Questionnaire responses
See, in their own words, what the different candidates have to say about
- The Human Rights Commission
- Public Housing Funding and the Residents’ Bill of Rights for Redevelopment
- the Strategic Investment Area, mixed-income housing, and affordable housing
- the ABRT process (funding for non-profits)
- Jobs vs. Entrepreneurship
- Diversity on City Boards and Commissions
- The Disproportionate Minority Contact with the Juvenile Justice System Task Force
- City of Second Chances
- and more!
Read their responses by following this link: NAACP Candidate Forum 2015 Questionnaire responses
You Are Invited!
Join PHAR, NAACP and the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center for this very important event!
“How will Candidates Improve the Health of the
Thursday April 23
At the Jefferson School
African American Heritage Center in the Auditorium
Join moderator Karen Waters-Wicks and candidates for city council:
Wes Bellamy, Kathy Galvin, Lena Seville, Mike Signer, and Dede Smith
Sponsored by: Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP, PHAR, and
the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.
CRHA has proposed drastic changes to policies that will negatively impact our most vulnerable residents, and violate the Residents Bill of Rights for Redevelopment.
Show Up, Speak Up and Speak Out MONDAY April 20 at 3 pm (Basement Conference Room at City Hall), and MONDAY April 27 at 6 pm (City Council Chambers at City Hall).
Making Eviction a Last Resort:
In Partnership with LAJC and PHAR, CRHA Adopts Eviction Policy Changes
Charlottesville, Va., January 20, 2015 – After more than two years of vigorous campaigning by residents and advocates, on January 14 the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) formally adopted extensive amendments to its eviction policy. The newly adopted policy includes the majority of the changes championed by the Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) and Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC). Many of these changes had already been informally adopted by CRHA during the course of the campaign and resulted in a 91% decrease in evictions from 2011 to 2014. In a win-win, the policies – which clarify resident responsibilities and provide residents avenues to get back on track after periods of financial hardship – have also already led to increased rent collection by CRHA.
The new policy, among other things, clarifies that residents will be offered one-on-one meetings with housing authority staff prior to court action; repayment plans will be offered to all residents who fall behind on their rent but are otherwise complying with their lease; lease termination notices will contain a clear explanation of how to remedy the violation; and a summons to court can only be issued when the amount owed exceeds $50. On the whole, the new policy makes eviction a last resort.
This successful campaign began on September 11, 2012, when Ms. Seay, an elderly woman and long-term resident, was evicted from her CRHA apartment on South First Street, sparking a community protest. PHAR and LAJC realized a systemic approach was needed: a new binding eviction policy.
Throughout 2013 and 2014, PHAR organized community members to speak out at CRHA meetings and other public forums for changes to CRHA’s eviction policy. At PHAR’s request, CRHA placed a moratorium on evictions from September through November 2012, acknowledging that their eviction policy needed to be revisited. In January 2013, CRHA comprehensively amended its Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy but failed to revise the eviction policy. Frustrated, over 100 people marched in protest of recent evictions and in support of dignity for residents of public housing.
PHAR continued to meet with Commissioners, lobby for a new written policy, and raise awareness about the necessary changes that had yet to be made throughout 2013. As the year drew to a close and no policy changes were offered by CRHA, PHAR and LAJC worked together to draft their own version of a new eviction policy. Throughout the spring and summer of 2014, PHAR and LAJC met with CRHA Commissioners to discuss their policy proposal. After months of meetings, public dialogue on the issue, and sustained demands, in the fall CRHA staff held a series of highly productive meetings with PHAR and LAJC representatives. On January 14, 2015, the CRHA adopted almost all of PHAR’s and LAJC’s proposed changes to the housing authority’s eviction policy.
Over the past two years, PHAR’s sustained campaign succeeded not only in changing CRHA’s eviction policy, but also in making eviction a last resort in our community. PHAR, LAJC, and the Charlottesville public housing community at-large are pleased with the changes we were able to achieve in partnership with CRHA. We will stay vigilant to ensure the policies that drastically reduced evictions and are now formalized in CRHA’s eviction policy are respected.
The Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) was founded in 1998 and has become one of the strongest and most well-known resident organizations in the country. PHAR is the recognized “resident advisory board (RAB)” for public housing in Charlottesville. PHAR is made up entirely by and for people living in public housing. We advocate and organize in our community for systemic changes and assist residents with improving their quality of life.
Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) provides legal representation for low-income individuals in Virginia. LAJC is PHAR’s general counsel.
Follow Legal Aid Justice Center on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and find us on Facebook.
Check out our website! www.justice4all.org
Time to Celebrate!
The January 14 meeting of the CRHA brought about great victories for Residents, PHAR, and the CRHA.
After years of hard work two policies were revised to improve resident life in public housing, and the CRHA also approved an Annual Plan that protects residents, expands participation, and seeks to outline big improvements in CRHA operations in the coming year! Finally, the CRHA is committing to participating fully in the City of Charlottesville’s efforts to end homelessness in our community.
All that in one night! Of course, most of these changes have been sought by residents and PHAR for years and we thank everyone who has protested, spoken out, showed up, and helped us to identify what changes will most have an impact on resident quality of life.
Here’s what happened:
Eviction Prevention Put into Policy:
The effort to include prevention efforts and protect residents from eviction was begun in earnest on September 11 with eviction of an elderly resident from South First Street. A noisy protest was held, an arrest occurred. Residents demanded action form the housing authority! From there other protests ensued and culminated in over 100 people marching ion the streets for justice and dignity in public housing in May 2013. The CRHA had a hard time coming to see things from our point of view- but they did eventually. PHAR and Legal Aid presented a draft of a policy (informed by residents) and pushed to have it passed, after many arguments, and many more meetings, the CRHA staff and board came to support nearly all of the changes proposed by residents!
Over the years, PHAR’s strong push to prevent evictions had a huge effect even before the new policy was passed. We have pressured CRHA to use eviction only as a last resort, and we have seen evictions drop dramatically from 2011 to 2014:
A 91% decrease in evictions!
*Some* of the new changes to how CRHA approached evictions are:
- eviction only as a last resort
- Summons to court only issued for amounts owed over $50
- No summons before the 25th of the month
- repayment plans offered to all
- more hardship exemptions offered
- 21/30 notices only issued after other informal notices and one on one meetings with residents to resolve lease violations
… and much more!
Improved Resident Access to Community Centers
Similarly, PHAR has been trying for two years to get an improved Community Center Use policy that expands access for residents. This effort had been largely ignored by CRHA for a very long time. Residents and PHAR mobilized, and even threatened legal action for CRHA’s unwillingness to negotiate (a cool provision under federal law allows resident associations to have negotiations on community center uses). Eventually, a meaningful negotiaion occurred and PHAR secured almost everything we had asked for! Those changes include:
- Centers will be available more hours: 8:00am to 9:30pm.
- Residents will be able to reserve the centers for 6 -8 hours on weekends and holidays!
- On weekdays flexibility to get more than 4 hours if there are no other reservations in the 2 weeks before.
- Electronic key code system (“key FOB”) will be in place soon, giving residents better accessibility.
- No cameras! Video Cameras will not be installed in the community centers
- The requirement for residents to be in “good standing” was changed to allow residents to reserve if owing a balance of less than $50 for less than 30 days, and you can ask for a flexibility.
Annual Plan Includes Resident Desires and Addresses Concerns
After many conversations, and a blizzard of memos and questions, CRHA passed an annual plan that largely reflects PHAR’s concerns and desires. Unfortunately, the Board of Commissioners were still resistant to meeting with PHAR to craft the plan, and Commissioners failed to attend resident meetings. Nevertheless, PHAR’s suggestions for the annual plan made it into the plan. These changes are too numerous to mention but add attention to:
- Expanding Resident Participation and Guarantees for Participation in the Redevelopment Process.
- Ensuring attention to Relocation for Redevelopment
- Making Improvements to the Family Self Sufficiency Program and Collaborating with PHAR Efforts and the City
- Using responsible funding ideas for management and operations.
… and about 50 other things!
PHAR also pointed out inconsistencies and bad information in the plan that helped the CRHA avoid including incorrect information in the plan.
Attention to Homelessness
One mistake the CRHA almost made was to claim that the Annual Plan was “consistent” with Charlottesville’s Consolidated Plan. The Consolidated Plan calls for the CRHA to include a preference in admissions for homeless persons. The CRHA was negligent in providing ample discussion on the issue in advance of the decision, despite City officials and PHAR asking for the idea to be talked about. At PHAR’s insistence, a preference is to be had for homeless. This preference will most likely be for families with children and will be referred to CRHA from the Continuum of Care overseen by Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless. PHAR is glad to see CRHA partner with the City and our community to address this important issue.
PHAR UPDATE: MORE RIGHTS FOR RESIDENTS!
Did you know PHAR has been working to improve residents’ access to community centers? Yesterday a meeting was held between PHAR, the Legal Aid Justice Center and CRHA to negotiate. Major progress resulted!
Here are the “wins”:
- Better access for residents! Longer hours, less restrictions.
- Centers will be available more hours: 8:00am to 9:30pm.
- Residents will be able to reserve the centers for 6 -8 hours on weekends and holidays! On weekdays the limit will still be 4 hours, but you will be able to get more if there are no other reservations in the 2 weeks before the event. CRHA will try to be flexible if you have a situation that needs more than 4 hours.
- Electronic key code system (“key FOB”) should be in place near the end of the year.
- No cameras! Video Cameras will not be installed in the community centers!
- The requirement for residents to be in “good standing” was changed to help residents have better access. You will be allowed to reserve for an event if you owe a balance of less than $50 for less than 30 days, and you can ask for flexibility.
Thank you for supporting PHAR and helping to improve the quality of life in public housing neighborhoods! Together we can make a difference!
Come to the October 27th CRHA Meeting at 7:00 pm at City Hall and let them know you support these great changes to the policy that will increase resident access and use of our community centers!
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
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!