Fight The ACOP- Send an Email, then Show Up!

Help Fight Back against barbaric changes in the Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan!
Send an e-mail by following this link
https://www.change.org/petitions/crha-board-of-commissioners-stop-unnecessary-acop-increases-and-punishments

And SHOW UP
Thursday, 4/18
5:30 pm Westhaven Community Center

Monday, 4/22
7:00 pm City Hall (Public Hearing on ACOP)

Wednesday MAY 1st
Rally for Justice and Dignity in Public Housing
3:00 pm meet at Federal Courthouse
3:30 pm march to City Hall
4:00 pm- Rally at City Hall

Posted in Uncategorized.

ACOP Facts

Upcoming Public Comment Sessions- learn more below!
-Thursday 4/18 5:30 pm Westhaven Community Center
-Monday 4/22 7:00 pm City Hall PUBLIC HEARING
-Wednesday 4/24 5:30 Location TBA

Facts about the ACOP and the Annual Plan:

What is the ACOP?
The Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan (ACOP) is a required policy document that all housing authorities must have. It must contain: selection from waiting list, screening of applicants, occupancy standards and policies, assisting families claiming illegal discrimination, informal review/grievance hearing procedures, rent determinations, annual and interim redetermination of family income and composition, procedures for inspections and the Violence Against Women Act

Why are they changing it?
The current policy does not address all of the issues that HUD says it must address. In late 2012 HUD did a review of the CRHA and is requiring that they create a new ACOP. CRHA claims that the fee and rent increases, and the stricter enforcement will off set the financial problems the housing authority has. HUD has recommended some changes.

When will they change it?
A final policy will be approved at the May CRHA meeting. A series of meetings and public input sessions will be held throughout April and May.

What is the Annual Plan?
The ACOP is a part of the annual plan. The annual plan must contain the ACOP, financial information, responses to the resident advisory board, capital improvements, and plans for demolition. HUD requires all housing authorities to submit an annual plan as part of a 5 year planning process.

Are the changes mandatory?
NO- only a few of the changes are mandatory, they are listed below.

How will this affect the CRHA?
CRHA will become more compliant with HUD regulation, they will have policies that will allow them to strictly enforce rent collections and evictions. The new increases WILL NOT raise the kind of revenue that the housing authority needs to survive.

How will this affect me?
Late fees are increasing, minimum rents are increasing, pet fees are increasing. If you pay your rent late it will be much harder for you to avoid possession and eviction, and it will cost you more money! More questions will be asked about your income at recertification.

Won’t they make these changes anyways?
NO- if residents stand together, speak up, and demand that they be heard we can stop the worst parts of the ACOP from passing.
Changes that are not mandatory
– Late fees will increase to $15
– The due date before late fees are charged will be on the 5th of the month instead of the 10th
– Automatic eviction will occur if you pay rent late 4 times in one year
– Minimum rent (for zero income families) will increase to $50
– Pet fees will increase dramatically- $200 deposit PLUS $10 per month
– Personal checks will not be accepted for late rent payments
– Must report income changes within 10 days instead of 30
– Includes RAD (rental assistance demonstration) in annual plan, this is a plan for decreasing public housing units

Changes required by HUD and Congress
– Lease renewal can be denied for failure to comply with terms and community service requirements
– Transfers will be prioritized in the following order- 1. Emergency situations, 2. reasonable accommodation, 3. Mandatory occupancy (unit size), and 4. Resident request for transfer
– defines “working” for exemption from community service as being 25 hours
– Deconcentration of poverty to allow higher incomes to be in public housing (some of this is not mandatory!)
– Zero income families must re-certify every 90 days

What isn’t in the plan
– eviction prevention
– rent calculation for people whose income changes frequently
– allowing for different rent due dates

There are many more changes contained in the ACOP, above are the highlights. For more information and to learn how to help stop these changes please call PHAR at (434) 984-3255 or e-mail Brandon at brandon@pharcville.org

Posted in Uncategorized.

Stop the ACOP

CRHA is
Raising Fees and Rents
We Can Stop the ACOP
Show Up, Speak Up, Stand Up
Housing Authority Public Meetings
Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan (ACOP)

Resident Input Allowed!!!

Thursday 4/11 1:00 pm
South First Street Community Center

Thursday 4/18 5:30 pm
Westhaven Community Center

Monday 4/22 7:00 pm
City Hall PUBLIC HEARING
(come early for press conference)

Wednesday 4/24 5:30
Location TBA

*Mark your calendar for May 1st in case we need to be in the streets to stop this attack on residents!

How the new policy (ACOP) effects

Leases- new leases, new rules

Late fees- increased to $15

Rent Collection- late fees charged on 6th of month instead of the 10th

Automatic Eviction- for 4 times paying late rent

Minimum rent- increased to $50

Pet policies- $200 deposit PLUS $10/month

Rent calculation- stricter enforcement, no provision for frequent changes in income

None of these changes are required by HUD!
Ask commissioners:
– why are the increases necessary?
– how did you determine the $ amounts for increases?
– Are you trying to evict residents and increase homelessness?
– are you serving the interests of residents and low income people?

Let them know:
– you are opposed to the changes
– how this affects your life as a resident of public housing
– how this will affect your neighbors

 

This policy will have more people owing more money, more often, going to court more often and being evicted more often.

WE can stop this TOGETHER if we
SHOW UP, SPEAK UP and
show UNITY in PUBLIC HOUSING for JUSTICE !!!

Posted in Uncategorized.

CRHA Crackdown on Residents by way of the ACOP

CRHA Work Session to discuss plans for squeezing more money out of residents and increasing evictions

WEDNESDAY
April 3
5:30 pm
Crescent Halls Community Room

This is a CRHA work session to address the Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan (ACOP)

The updated plan is out for 30 days comments, and will be given a final vote at the May CRHA meeting.

The plan includes a number of significant changes to policies affecting residents, these changes are going to put a severe financial and social hardship on residents.

In short, the CRHA is trying to squeeze more money out of low-income residents, increase the threat of eviction, and approach all aspects of CRHA operations and tenant relations as punitive rather than providing safe and decent affordable housing.

Some highlights included in the draft plan
– increase in minimum rent form $25 to $75
– increase in late fees from $10 to $15
– decreasing the time that late fees will be assessed from the 10th to the 5th of the month
– automatic eviction for residents who are late 4 times in 12 months
– automatic eviction if resident receives 4 notices of unlawful detainer
– increase in pet fees- $200 deposit plus $10 per month
– stricter scrutiny for “zero-income” residents
– stricter scrutiny in income verification and determination

What isn’t in the plan
– eviction prevention measures
– a fair process for rent determination for people with sporadic employment
– leeway on rent due dates (ie people who get paid later in the month)

And more!
Please join us Wednesday to learn more, and stay tuned for how we are going to address this blatantly cruel approach to life in public housing!

Posted in Uncategorized.

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.

New Barment Policy- How Does it Work?

On December 20, 2012 the CRHA passed a new policy for barment and un-barment (no trespassing)

Residents and PHAR have worked hard to get one of the best policies possible that brings some fairness and dignity to residents and their friends and families.

We Want to Hear from You…
If you know someone who would like to have their bar lifted
PLEASE call PHAR at 434-984-3255 or e-mail us at brandon@pharinc.org so we can help make sure the process works and that your rights are respected…

We Are Looking Forward to Many People Coming off of the Bar List Soon!

Here is what the new policy says:
– 3 levels of timelines for unbarment: 6 months for nuisance misdemeanor, 2 years for non-violent crimes and minor drug offenses, up to 7 years for violent felonies, drug distribution, and domestic violence.
– Timelines assume someone is unbarred unless the ED shows reason not to unbar someone within 15 days of applying.
– Special permission for barred persons to visit residents.
– Right to appeal any decision about barment or un-barment by resident
– Clear outline for how police can stop someone in your neighborhood- reasonable suspicion is needed
– Written notice required to be given to the resident and the barred person stating why the person is barred
– New Policy Applies to the Current List!!!

 How to Get Unbarred and dealing with the Current List

Because the current list has not been maintained, and because the new policy applies to those currently on the list you may have an opportunity to get unbarred without applying!

–         Call PHAR if you know someone who wishes to be unbarred! We need to make sure the law is followed and that the process is implemented fairly! PHAR can let you know if you have been given the proper notice about barment and may be able to help you come off the list without applying!

–         If you have not received written notice stating the reason for barment you may not have to apply for un-barment!

–         If you want to use the new CRHA process please call PHAR first, and then visit the CRHA main office and ask to come off of the list- CRHA will require you to consent to a criminal background check.

If you know someone who is barred and would like to see them unbarred please call PHAR so we can assist in making sure that your family members and loved ones have the fastest, easiest, and fairest way off of the no trespassing list!

Call: (434) 984-3255
or e-mail: brandon@pharinc.org

Posted in Uncategorized.

PHAR Supports a Human Rights Commission with Enforcement Power!

Monday February 4
PUBLIC HEARING on Human Rights Commission

Please attend City Council Meeting this Monday to speak in favor of a Human Rights Commission WITH ENFORCEMENT POWER

listen to PHAR Service Coordinator Holly Edwards and PHAR Vice-Chair Joy Johnson discuss the HRC on “Charlottesville Right Now”
http://www.wina.com/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=6221610

How to speak at a public hearing- this is not the same as public comment. A public hearing is about a specific agenda item, it will be early on in the agenda- you do not have to sign up, though those who do will speak first.
City Hall in City Council Chambers
(downtown across from free speech wall, second floor)

Here’s some more information

Major reasons we need a local Human Rights Commission with enforcement authority as allowed by the Virginia Human Rights Act and as practiced in NOVA

The Bottom Line is:

1)A City like Charlottesville should be a leader in protecting the rights of all of its residents, visitors, university students and workers.  It is embarrassing that the Virginia Council has been moved into the Attorney General’s office, without an independent state commission for oversight.  It is embarrassing that the state anti-discrimination law is so limited, and yet some in Charlottesville want to limit your local commission to even less power than that provided by the Act! We need full power granted by the Virginia Human Rights Act

2) There has been solid support for a strong human rights Commission.

The Dialogue on Race Steering Committee voted 8-1 to support this proposal in October of 2011.

The Human Rights Task Force voted 6-4 to support such a Commission and voted to recommend:

• The City of Charlottesville develops and implements a strong anti-discrimination ordinance;

• The City of Charlottesville form a Human Rights Commission that is enabled to use the full scope of remedies provided by State and Federal statutes to uphold the ordinance; THIS IS THE PRNCE WILLIAM COUNTY MODEL.

• Ensure comprehensive anti-discrimination education and training opportunities are available to all members of the Charlottesville community;

The “Advocate Model” and the “Virginia Beach Model did not receive a majority vote of the HRTF but the Prince William Model did.

The Major Justice organizations in Charlottesville support such a strong Human Rights Commission

3)CHAMBER of Commerce in PWC OK with it-Not a tribunal

Graelyn Bashir of the Cville Weekly reports:
For almost two decades, the Prince William County Human Rights Commission has been receiving and resolving discrimination complaints. Debbie Jones, executive vice president at the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce, said the commission’s work hasn’t raised the hackles of the business owners her organization represents. “I’ve been in the Chamber world for 22 years, and I don’t recall there being anything negative about it,” she said. 

The Idea for an Advocate Position in City Hall is weak because:

1. Does not include a citizens commission oversight and that might lead to legitimacy problems

2. Does not parallel the Virginia Human Rights Act

3. Does not include a formal system like those found in HRCs in NOVA that protect the privacy of all parties

4. Does not allow us to become a EEOC or HUD contractor if we want

5. Leaves people reliant on external agencies that will not be as responsive as a local Commission with enforcement powers

The Problems with the Local EEOC office idea is:

1. Charlottesville would not be included in the Washington Field Office jurisdiction, so you would probably have to rely on the Charlotte District Office, which is not workable. Contacted Richmond Office and they say it is unlikely Charlottesville will get much assistance from EEOC field office. Advised to set up PWC like HRC first.

2. The EEOC/FEPA program is not very flexible; NOVA Commissions have tried a couple of times to amend the EEOC prototype contract, but was informed by EEOC headquarters that they must agree to all provisions or risk losing the funding.

3. Congress intended, in passing the Civil Rights Act (and its amendments), that there would be a network of state and local agencies nationwide to augment the EEOC district office scheme.

4. Everyone arguably should have equal access to assistance and a local Commission ensures that.

5. In the experience of Human Rights Commission in NOVA, EEOC district offices often cannot handle the volume of charges, so they utilize a priority evaluation system and often dismiss charges that they in local offices would resolve.

Benefits of Local Commission with enforcement powers:

Disposition time Quicker than EEOC

In Alexandria, they conclude most investigations in 180 days, while the average case age in the federal EEOC system is much greater.  The longer a case is open the more likely it will be that witnesses are unavailable or evidence is lost.

Using the time factor, we argued, and showed using data from existing HRCs that complaints are handled more quickly by local HRCs than by the feds. Thus allowing businesses to get these allegations behind them and get on with business instead of being tied up in a case for as much as 5 years dealing with EEOC. This also provided an earlier opportunity for the business to be cleared of allegations that were not true.

Strong HR COMMISSION More Likely to USE Alternative Dispute Res.

Also Local HRCs are able to move quickly on alternative dispute resolution, which benefits both complainants and respondents.  In Alexandria, the rate of closing cases by ADR is four times the EEOC national average.

The Virginia Human Rights Act is woefully inadequate for protecting the rights of Virginians.  There are many employers in Virginia who have fewer than 15 employees (or 20 re age discrimination).  The Act is limited with respect to bases (protected classes), issues and remedies.  Virginia employers can still mistreat their employees in many ways.

Commissions dismiss frivolous claims, Have Credibility

I know that the Chamber and the Rotary bristle at the idea of enabling employees to file cases against their members.  But, there are these groups, and legislators who are reluctant, by focusing on unscrupulous employers.  Most employers want to do the right thing and welcome our assistance.  We dismiss frivolous claims and work closely with the employment bar in Virginia, so we have built up credibility as professionals enforcing the law.

Commissions provide training and assistance to businesses (when we have the budget to do so!) and intervene in local disputes of many kinds.

Commissions deal with issues other than Employment

The state law also covers public accommodations, Credit, and private education which the EEOC cannot.

In addition to Race, such Commissions protect other protected classes are color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, marital status and disability. In effect, it covers everybody. Therefore, everyone has an interest in ensuring that they are treated fairly under the law.

Local commissions can educate businesses and the public on service animals, for example, or mediate matters alleging discrimination in public accommodations.

Usually there is not blatant discrimination occurring, but rather an inexperienced or insensitive person making a mistake.  Intervening in these matters benefits the community.

Commissions balance Enforcement with Outreach

The bottom line is, if we do this right, we balance enforcement with outreach and training, and we collaborate to assess social conditions that might lead to discrimination and to solve systemic problems.

The Commission also can conduct studies and hearings and make policy recommendations to Council.

Commissions so enabled can get EEOC and HUD Funding

The possibility of garnering contract funding from the EEOC for cases with concurrent federal jurisdiction will convince some to support an enforcement provision in your local code

Some of the best arguments we used for getting the Human Rights Act passed was based on time, money and the state’s right (they liked that one) and capability to handle these complaints instead of having them handled by the Federal Government.

COST TO BUSINESSES is LOWER with Strong HRC Model

The cost factor to businesses was much less when allegations were resolved at the local level instead of dealing over the long term with the feds, lawyers and court trials. When handled at the local level, the complainants and the businesses do not have to hire and pay lawyers to get a local resolution that is consi stent with federal and state law. This has a direct and positive impact on a business’ bottom line.

Local Control Better than Federal control

as a matter of principal, the state and local HRCs were much preferred over the feds when it comes to resolving such matters that arise locally. That having local people assembling and interpreting the facts in these cases led to increased acceptance of the decisions than when an outside entity, with no knowledge or concern for the local community comes in and issues a decision in a case.

A former Commissioner from NOVA said:

Over my 40+ years of being involved at the local level in Fairfax County and at the state level, I am not aware of any responding business entity being able to show that they were treated unfairly by any local or state entity that investigated and decided their case. In fact, we have had responding businesses, and sometimes their lawyers, note how well and professionally the HRCs work was done. Further, of the few cases that were not settled locally and ended up in court (only a small fraction of 1 percent), the court has ruled consistently with the findings of the local or state investigation. As a matter of fact, we have had some business entities recommend that businesses work with the local HRCs instead of using the feds or lawsuits to get resolution of these types of cases. You can invite the local Chamber of Commerce, or you might do it yourself, to check with their counterparts in Fairfax, Alexandria and Prince William to get their input regarding their experience with their local HRCs. I would expect that most of the feedback will be positive.

Posted in Uncategorized.

PHAR Response to Halbert’s Attack on Resident Participation

This is in response to CRHA finance committee member Jason Halbert’s recent guest editorial in the Daily Progress:

In his December 30, 2012 guest editorial, Jason Halbert attempted to push an aggressive agenda for public housing in Charlottesville amid a flurry of deliberate distortions, attacks on CRHA board members, and willful ignorance of the concept of resident participation in CRHA matters. He offers some solutions to what he sees as a lack of leadership that fit only his vision of what redevelopment should be, who will pull it off, who should support him, and how.

When it comes to all matters of public housing, including redevelopment, there are two things that need to be understood: HUD Regulation 964 which mandates resident input into decisions that a housing authority makes especially for major renovations, and the Residents Bill of Rights for Redevelopment the first principle reading “A meaningful and enforceable resident participation process will guide all substantive decisions about redevelopment”.

How does one so wholeheartedly refer to the Residents Bill of Rights, while ignoring the central and guiding principle of the document? Halbert’s commentary carries a tone of disdain for resident involvement, even attempting to silence one resident leader by name. The piece ends with criticism of PHAR, painted in the language of “civility” but which reads as “PHAR should stay out of the way”.

Francis Fife once said of Vinegar Hill “If we had had PHAR around back in the 1960s, Vinegar Hill would not have happened the way it did”. PHAR is consistent in its advocacy for resident input based on the needs of a community whose homes and economic situation will be greatly impacted by decisions concerning redevelopment.

Mr. Halbert presents a vision of the demolition of public housing and rebuilding along a “mixed-income” model. It is entirely too similar to what happened to Vinegar Hill in the 1960s and PHAR will not let this happen.

Clarifications of Mr. Halbert’s distortions can be made showing that a lack of adherence to both HUD regulation 964 and the Residents Bill of Rights by CRHA staff, some commissioners, and even Mr. Halbert himself as being partially to blame for the lack of accountability and action from CRHA.

First off, the master plan. While the plan had resident input it did not, and does not, reflect the full desires of residents. Resident input seems to have been only a formality. However, the plan still exists with some key concepts of the RBOR included. Assuming the plan stands, PHAR has been diligent in its efforts to ensure that redevelopment happens, as it is greatly needed. Public housing in Charlottesville has become unmanageable, under-maintained, and in many circumstances uninhabitable. “So why is it [redevelopment] not happening?” Halbert asks.

The answer is not current CRHA board leadership, angry residents, or PHAR but primarily a lack of funding. As a member of the CRHA finance committee Mr. Halbert should know that this is ultimately why no movement has been seen until recently. Halbert says the CDC needs to be “dusted off”, but this is nothing new to anyone informed about the process. Unfortunately, the staff at CRHA attempted to conveniently exclude residents from the CDC selection process going so far as to avoid the duly elected resident advisory board when presenting the CDC membership to the board for a vote. One wonders if it is incompetence that the agenda for the October meeting where the decision was to be made was not made available to the public ahead of time or if a deliberate attempt was made to fast track the CDC appointments without resident input. PHAR simply asked for the opportunity to meet with suggested appointees and to offer a recommendation before a vote was taken.

If spurring on the CDC is the first step towards redevelopment then “meaningful and enforceable” resident participation is the first step for PHAR. PHAR, along with the LEADERSHIP of Commissioners Johnson and Norris, has been able to consult with city leaders, set a process for determining how the CDC is made up, and is on the verge of making recommendations. As anyone in tune with what is going on with PHAR or the housing authority knows, there is an intense focus on moving redevelopment forward. Mr. Halbert’s assertion that PHAR is blocking or not doing enough is a distortion of fact and should be ignored as should his placing of blame on commissioners Norris and Johnson, who have been doing the leg work of moving forward on redevelopment. People such as Mr. Halbert have worked vigorously to exclude residents from the process. Perhaps it is not leadership that is lacking but Mr. Halbert’s leadership and agenda that he sees as missing from the process?

PHAR welcomes suggestions for bringing in needed funds for redevelopment. We feel that Levy Avenue should be developed as temporary lodging during renovations at Crescent Hall. This has been the assumption for some time. Money is needed, and the understanding of all community partners needs to be included. There are obstacles, but PHAR only becomes one when HUD mandated resident participation is ignored. Halbert correctly invokes the Residents Bills of Rights for Redevelopment, however he does not need to tell PHAR to “organize to achieve that vision”. In fact he need not tell PHAR what to do or how to do it as PHAR is intensely focused on redevelopment. We support the entirety of the Resident Bill of Rights for Redevelopment, not just those planks that are convenient to Halbert’s vision for redevelopment. I invite anyone interested to call or write PHAR to find out exactly what we are doing to support the resident bill of rights, and what our vision for redevelopment is.

Amid many other distortions and misrepresentations, Halbert offers other “solutions” to the current mismanagement of public housing. First he suggests that the CRHA Board of Commissioners be dissolved. This is certainly unwarranted and misplaces blame. Ample examples can be provided as to mismanagement of the housing authority by staff on all levels that includes maintenance oversight, as well as executive resistance to existing CRHA policy and procedures (as can be attributed to the need for a 30 day moratorium on evictions). At no turn should the CRHA board be eliminated. Rather, the city should have direct control over executive administration with governance provided by a healthy and responsive board of commissioners. City staff is highly capable, respectful, and willing to administer day to day operations of public housing. This was exhibited successfully during Aubrey Watts’ time as interim director. His respect and ability to make things happen are exactly the kind of administrative leadership that is needed. Governing leadership needs to include resident voices and solid public policy veterans. Joy Johnson has shown that she is not only competent and capable, but also knows regulation and policy better than anyone else currently serving on the board of commissioners. To lose her as a decision maker means losing resident input as well as a trained expert on the CRHA board.

Conversely, behind the scenes meddling by the likes of Halbert (who is not currently serving on the CRHA board- why is he even allowed on the finance committee?) and other commissioners have seen the shepherding through and by-passing of procedure in the selection of the current executive director and the purposeful monkey wrenching of the 21 vouchers needed for the Crossings (despite a previous 6-1 vote, of which Halbert was the sole opponent), which in turn led to HUD not approving the 2012 annual plan and causing a snowball effect for comprehensive planning including for redevelopment. We do not need Halbert’s vision of backroom deals and intentional sabotage of process as the model for leadership in the CRHA.

Norris is a consensus builder, if he were to be the sole vote in a 6-1 vote he would not sneak behind the backs of commissioners and staff to intentionally derail a process in place to house our homeless. Dave Norris is trusted by the public housing community, even when he has made hard decisions not fully supported by PHAR he remains someone that residents know they can trust. As chair of the CRHA, he has provided much needed leadership in getting a barment policy passed, attempted to hold CRHA staff accountable, and built consensus on things like eviction prevention, and yes, on redevelopment. Mr. Norris has many balls in the air, his stewardship, expertise, and respect for residents are greatly needed at this important time. If redevelopment is to move forward Mr. Norris is committed to making it happen. Norris and Johnson should remain on the board, otherwise backroom deals, sweetheart tax credits, and the razing of neighborhoods are likely to be the drivers and end results of redevelopment.

Finally, a word about anger and ad hominem attacks. When you live in a community, any attempt to dissolve your community, tear down your neighborhood, or otherwise alter your living situation is deeply personal. You will be angry. You should be angry. If the CRHA won’t listen to resident concerns on a rational basis, then there is no option but to express that anger. Is it helpful? Perhaps not always, but it is warranted in the face of the undignified and casual manner in which some in the CRHA staff treat the residents they are tasked with serving. Mr. Halbert has no right, as a wealthier member of our community, to meddle behind the scenes with the lives of 376 families and not expect for anger to be expressed.

Public housing is like any other neighborhood, people who live there have the right to be safe, have sanitary living conditions and to have a say in their futures like any other neighborhood in Charlottesville. Distortions, misrepresentations, attacks, and attempts at removing trusted appointees in the name of expediting a small group of people’s vision for redevelopment will not lead to a “brighter future for our whole city”.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Barment and Un-Barment Policy Adopted !!!

PHAR is pleased to announce that after much hard work, petitions, numerous public meetings with awesome resident speakers, outreach to other community allies, and constant pushing for a fair policy the CRHA passed a policy at the December 20, 2012 meeting!!!

The policy is something we have been striving for. The unfairness, unaccountability, and muddiness of the current (now the old!) policy was keeping families from seeing one another, keeping caretakers from doing their job, and barring people with no stated reason.

The new policy includes pretty much everything we have asked for:
– clear procedures on how and why someone can be barred
– clear timelines for how long someone can be barred
– fair appeals procedures
– clarity on how the police can stop someone
– limited use of background checks on those seeking unbarment
– written notice to the resident and the barred person stated why the person is barred
– special visits for those barred but who need to visit their loved ones

And much more!

We’ll be sure to post the new policy, and get to work educating residents on how their loved ones and friends can come off the bar list.

In other BIG news- the December 20 meeting also had the CRHA coordinating with the City of Charlottesville to review the possibility of folding the housing authority administration under City control. They also agreed to include more resident decision making by allowing PHAR and the Crescent Halls Tenants Association to decide who will serve on the Strategic Investment Area Steering Committee. More info on the way!
Happy Holidays to All !!!

Posted in Uncategorized.