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Charlottesville's public housing agency seeks input on annual plan

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority is seeking public input on its annual plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

CRHA’s board of commissioners will hold a work session Thursday to discuss the plan, which highlights accomplishments of the past year and objectives for the next one.

Executive Director John Sales said some key points of the document center on equitable opportunities for homeownership.

“We’re not just doing redevelopment of public housing, but [we are] being able to put some homeownership opportunities in there so individuals have a chance to own the dirt in the place they’ve called home for 20 or 30 years and have ownership of something,” he said.

The plan has a chapter on homeownership, detailing programs that assist public housing residents on the path to owning homes.

Through a self-sufficiency program, renters can create personalized goals and lock in their rent. As their income increases, the rent remains the same but is placed in an escrow account. Once the goals of the plan are achieved, the participant will have access to the account. Sales said it could be up to $20,000 or $30,000, which could go toward a down payment.

The plan includes a new procurement policy, which was crafted in response to an audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD has given CRHA the status of a “troubled” agency, a title for housing authorities underperforming in several metrics.

One of the priorities for the upcoming year is to assess existing public housing stock and determine which properties need redevelopment and which need modernization.

Redevelopment doesn’t work for all properties, Sales said. For example, Crescent Halls is being modernized because it already has many units and not enough land to start over.

CRHA is hiring a firm to complete the review. The firm will create work forms for all units, and maintenance staff will go through and tackle all issues while officials consider modernization or redevelopment.

Sales said the assessment is part of a sustainability plan that will provide the framework for ensuring proper revenue streams to keep properties affordable.

“We really need to be looking at 15 to 20 years from now,” he said.

Another goal of the plan is to study how some housing-choice vouchers, which allow renters to pick where they live, can be converted to project-based vouchers, which would apply directly to public housing sites.

The difference, Sales said, would contribute to an additional revenue stream for CRHA to sustain its properties. Although the location for which the vouchers could be used would change, renters would still only contribute 30% of their income to rent.

During the year, CRHA will provide 52 project-based vouchers at Crescent Halls and 24 at South First Street, the plan says. Sales said CRHA also provides 150 vouchers to Friendship Court, which is not a public housing site.

The document also includes an updated plan for administering the voucher program, which comes after HUD reported previous mismanagement.

One issue HUD identified was that no one was separately and directly managing oversight of the voucher and inspection programs, which caused problems with both.

Sales said “almost everything” in the administrative plan is different from the previous guidelines. He said it emphasizes finding housing within the city limits.

“We really want to be able to house individuals in the city of Charlottesville so we’ve made that a priority,” he said. “A lot of individuals want to live here — they’re just unable to.”

CRHA will continue cutting its vacancy rate, which has been caused by a shortstaffed maintenance department unable to quickly turn over units while addressing ongoing issues.

The plan notes CRHA will be under way with the first phase of its planned redevelopment of public housing stock and start preliminary work on other sites.

The first phase includes modernization of Crescent Halls and the first phase of redevelopment on South First Street.

The plan also includes a $4.85 million, five-year maintenance plan. In year one, $1.01 million is allocated to projects that include replacing playground equipment and hot water systems throughout public housing sites. It also includes air quality improvements and replacing doors and windows at Westhaven.

Later years include lighting, sidewalks and community center upgrades.

The board of commissioners meets virtually at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. CRHA will hold public meetings on the plan at 4 and 6 p.m. Nov. 18 and a public hearing at 5 p.m. Dec. 17.

To register for the meetings or view the plan, visit cvillerha.com/key-documents.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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