Monthly Archives: March 2013

PHAR in the News!

PHAR got some attention for resident needs and concerns on the 25th- check out the coverage!
(read the statement here)

NBC29
http://www.nbc29.com/story/21789689/public-housing-residents-demand-housing-authority-make-changes
Newsplex
http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/Charlottesville-Residents-Demand-Higher-Quality-Public-Housing-199958061.html

Daily Progress
http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/housing-authority-responds-to-report/article_c02e63d4-95c3-11e2-bc05-001a4bcf6878.html

Posted in Uncategorized.

Enough is Enough! PHAR comments to Media 3/25/13

In late 2012, the CRHA Board of Commissioners requested a cursory review of operations and management. This request, despite the claims of Executive Director Connie Dunn, was spurred on by Commissioner Bob Stephens. HUD, under the direction of Richmond Field Office Director Jerryl Bennet, issued a final report on February 8, 2013. This report was not made available to the public until February 20 where limited copies were made available. The 80 page report cited numerous violations and suggests widespread incompetence from the CRHA staff and board of commissioners.

Despite mention of resident relations and the duly elected, duly recognized, and protected Resident Advisory Board- which is PHAR- no attempt was made to consult with residents or PHAR to give resident perspectives of CRHA management. Instead the report names PHAR, wrongly, in a number of ways that have no relation to CRHA operations or financing. HUD has since recognized that inclusion of PHAR in the report was a result of a misunderstanding of PHAR’s administration of a HUD ROSS grant for services coordination. HUD has since publicly stated that PHAR has done no wrong doing, nor has there been any conflict of interest concerning PHAR and CRHA operations. The report contains a number of misrepresentations, misunderstandings and incorrect information. The CRHA seems to have embraced these lies as a way to deflect criticism from the public.

We are concerned that the negative attention being placed on PHAR and our long time supporters has been a thinly veiled attempt by CRHA to deflect attention away from their shortcomings and to further the frequent and sustained attacks on protected resident rights and organizing in public housing. We are also concerned that CRHA will use suggestions in the report to increase the financial and social burdens being placed on residents without adequate and required resident and RAB input and negotiation. We would like to present our own review, from a resident’s perspective, of the operations of the CRHA- our homes are crumbling, we are treated with disrespect, our rights are being violated, we demand a seat at the table, and we are tired of an out of control housing authority that is ignoring it’s own policies and procedures.

PHAR has been consistent on representing resident concerns. If minutes for CRHA meetings were made available on the city website, the public could see for themselves what issues have been brought up at board meetings, and resident services meetings.

PHAR’s role is not only to give input, but to negotiate with the housing authority and represent all residents. Under Regulation 964 we are protected from retaliation, and are considered a necessary and important part of CRHA operations. PHAR legally speaks for all residents, and all residents are considered members of PHAR.  Public Housing is not the same thing as private housing- there are federal regulations that must be adhered to. Those regulations, stated clearly in Regulation 964.135 give residents rights and responsibilities to have the recognized Resident Advisory Board- which is PHAR- give meaningful input into all aspects of CRHA operations.

Unfortunately, a survey of how things operate, especially since April 2012, would show that PHAR has been under steady attack, whether directed towards individuals, or towards PHAR as a whole. CRHA staff seems to be under the impression that PHAR is only a handful of people, we are not, we represent all residents in Charlottesville’s public housing. We must be recognized. We seek to hold the housing authority accountable to regulation when the board and the staff have been unable to hold themselves accountable. The HUD review shows this, and PHAR has been consistent in supporting Commissioner Johnson in her steady attempts to keep the CRHA in line with regulation. Again, a survey of past minutes, were they available, would show that Commissioner Johnson has brought up many of the concerns listed in the HUD review repeatedly and that her attempts have fallen consistently on deaf ears. Commissioners Clarke and Greene, as well, have been diminished and minimized on the CRHA board. We wonder if this is racism, sexism, or classism on the board or a combination of all three.

A look at past minutes, were they available would show that CRHA has neglected it’s duty to heed concerns of the RAB (PHAR), to negotiate with the RAB, to include required resident input in policy decisions. One can note that the CRHA staff has made policy decisions without board or resident input and is seeking to implement HUD recommendations in violation of federally mandated processes for Commissioner approval and RAB input and negotiation.

The CRHA is about to find itself in much greater violation of federal law, 24 CFR 903.13 and 903.17 as it attempts to finalize an annual plan. These plans are required to include RAB input and CRHA written response to that input. That plan is also to include the ACOP, in need of revision as per HUD, and which includes a number of changes to leases, waiting lists, minimum rents, and procedures that will greatly affect residents. These changes cannot be implemented without Board approval, which cannot be given without RAB input. The annual plan has been delayed twice now, and the timelines given by HUD to respond have passed, the most recent being March 15th. This is a huge oversight by CRHA staff and suggests further incompetence. If CRHA is trying to exclude resident involvement through PHAR, and making large policy decisions without Board approval then federal law is being violated. CRHA staff is making policy and procedure changes, including changes to leases and rent determination without having an approved ACOP or Annual Plan. A draft of the ACOP should be available for comment, and 30 days for public comment are necessary before any change in procedure or policy is implemented. A look at CRHA finance committee minutes will show that CRHA staff is very upfront about implementing policy without following federal regulations. Who will hold them accountable?

We ask that the press, instead of looking into PHAR’s activities, looks into the CRHA’s handling of these matters. We demand that CRHA Board of Commissioners look to their own shortcomings rather than placing blame on residents.

Incompetent staff  have consistently bungled rent calculation, and have not offered self sufficiency measures to residents. The disrespectful and insulting attitudes of staff have continued, with one staff member being promoted for her undignified mishandling of an eviction. Insulting flyers imitating a cash quick scheme have been distributed by staff to residents. Residents consistently report being talked down to, insulted, made to comply with procedures incorrectly, received incorrect information, and have been treated differently under similar circumstances. Maintenance needs are unmet, there is seldom anyone answering the phones for maintenance, and no comprehensive maintenance approach exists. If anything, the housing authority has the duty to provide safe and sanitary housing- in this they have failed. A number of staff have been terminated since April, most of whom have been African-Americans while CRHA has left the most incompetent staff members still in place.

PHAR and residents have been saying the same things to CRHA at meetings and in public comments to the resident services committee, and none of this is addressed, here is a small sample of some of the things that have been going on:
– Annual planning process has not happened, a plan cannot be submitted until adequate RAB input has been included (24 CFR 903.13 and 903.17)
– The annual plan must include the ACOP, which also requires RAB input
– A fire safety plan for Crescent Halls has yet to be formed
– CRHA has tried repeatedly to ignore regulations concerning stipends for resident education (964.150), and consistently tries to overcharge residents in a rude and disrespectful manner
– Termination of employees has been based on race
– Improper hiring process was used to select Constance Dunn as executive director
– PHAR has consistently brought forward the important issue of mold and air quality in public housing, this issue has yet to be addressed
– No formal grievance policy exists to date, a violation of federal regulation (24 CFR 966.50)
– PHAR has asked that eviction prevention policies be part of any eviction planning, this has yet to happen, and frequent misinformation is given to residents concerning this matter. Residents have reported not receiving notices to appear along the proper timelines
– PHAR has asked that a maintenance supervisor be hired. Conditions have deteriorated and many residents do not have adequate maintenance of their homes.
– Policies are increasingly made by staff without board approval including- use of community centers, rent calculations, and lease changes
– The new barment policy has not been implemented according to the policy, leaving legal recourse the only option, CRHA has yet to form an appeals panel according to the policy
– Resident input has not been sought concerning redevelopment and appointments to the CDC (Residents Bill of Rights for Redevelopment). PHAR is diligently working to find appropriate appointments to the CDC
– Two member of the finance committee are not CRHA Board members- Rick Jones and Jason Halbert, and have not been approved or selected by the CRHA Board
– A staff member is her husband’s supervisor
– CRHA minutes and committee minutes are not available on their website
– Community Centers and computer rooms remain locked
– Capital improvement needs are not based on resident input
– CRHA has tried to interfere with PHAR funding sources, and have attempted to discredit PHAR and other tenants associations
– Inadequate notice is given to residents concerning changes in policies, public meetings, and other goings on
– Maintenance is inconsistent, housing is in disrepair, and repairs based on REAC inspections are not made fully.

 

With these things in mind, and based on the other materials made available to press we say-
Enough is Enough!

Our demands, simple and inclusive, are:
– Immediate survey of all maintenance needs, and a full accounting made to residents for how the needs will be met
– Immediate assessment of air quality of all public housing units and a full accounting made to residents on how this issue is to be addressed
– Immediate replacement or comprehensive repair to the elevators at Crescent Halls
– Immediate construction of a fire safety plan based on past discussions and timelines for the plan
– Cessation of all attempts to pass an annual plan or ACOP until resident and RAB input can be considered formally
– Cessation of implementing HUD recommendations until CRHA Board approval is given
– Resume the moratorium on evictions until eviction prevention policy is crafted and implemented based on RAB input
– Assessment of any and all rent overcharges in public housing and Section 8 and repayment made to residents
– Allow public comment at the upcoming joint HUD and CRHA meeting so that HUD can hear resident concerns about the CRHA

Posted in Uncategorized.