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Purchase first step in plan to fix up foreclosed property
The Huntsville Housing Authority on Monday approved the purchase of seven single-family homes a round the city, the first in a plan to fix up foreclosed properties.
Using $4.5 million in federal grants for neighborhood improvement, the authority has announced plans to buy foreclosed homes and apartments throughout the city, repair the properties and sell them to low-income families.
If the Housing Authority can't find a qualified buyer, Executive Director Michael Lundy said, it will lease the single-family homes to public housing residents. The residents who lease will later have an option to buy.
During a meeting at the Oscar Mason Center, Lundy told the authority board that he intended to close on the seven homes in October. He said he would likely return next month with another list of foreclosed homes for purchase.
According to a list provided by the city, the seven foreclosed homes are located on Bartee Lane, Clovis Road, Hermosa Circle, Lewisburg Drive, Rita Lane, Rosedale Drive and Talwell Drive. The authority expects to spend a total of $468,000 on the purchase of all seven.
Lundy also told the board that he will give a report next month on the likely purchase of five single-family homes in Madison County that are still occupied by evacuees of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Paige Rucker, spokeswoman for the authority, said the evacuees have been living rent-free for four years. She said they will be given the option to pay rent, buy the home or move out.
Huntsville’s panjandrums of public housing – otherwise known as the Huntsville Housing Authority (HHA) board – held their monthly meeting on Monday, and their plans for expanding the scope of public housing in Huntsville continue apace.
The main agenda item directly affecting South Huntsville is the continuing plan to purchase foreclosed homes using Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funds. Of the seven homes the HHA plans to purchase in October, two are in South Huntsville. Both are in the Autumn Ridge subdivision (Clovis Road and Hermosa Circle) off of Green Cove Road, west of Memorial Parkway. The HHA plans to purchase over forty such properties to either be renovated and sold as “low-income housing” or rented to Section 8 voucher recipients. Board president Charley Burruss promised more property purchase announcements at future board meetings, and Executive Director Michael Lundy strongly hinted that multifamily units and/or apartments could be among these properties.
As is typical with the HHA, Mr. Burruss resorted to the shopworn assertion that these purchases will be beneficial to the affected communities by propping up housing prices. If the HHA were just another buyer, this would be true. But it is not just another buyer. Mr. Burruss and the HHA would prefer to live – or at least pretend to live – in a fantasy land where the intended use of the property as public housing has no impact on the desirability of the neighborhood. Mr. Burruss is a smart man and he surely knows that what he says is both illogical and refutable by even simple knowledge of the real estate market. But like his cohorts, his dedication to the HHA’s mission causes him to willfully blind himself to obvious truths and embrace trite narratives that have no basis in fact.
Other items discussed:
– A one-bedroom apartment at Stone Manor is to be decommissioned as a housing unit and converted into an office. The HHA staff said it was originally believed that such an office would be unnecessary, but the continuing stream of relocated families from Councill Courts made it prudent to have one. This is curious. The process of relocating residents is a short-term process that would not seem to require an expensive and quasi-permanent response like creating an on-site office. One wonders if there are not other factors at play here that caused the HHA to feel the need to keep a closer eye on the complex. Are there undisclosed problems there, or is the HHA merely concerned about preventing nascent problems that could cause adverse publicity if allowed to fester?
– The Mahogany Row and Stone Manor properties continue to operate at a loss due to a lack of needed subsidies. Little explanation was provided.
– The HHA failed to win Capital Fund Recovery Competition (i.e., stimulus) redevelopment grants to replace Todd Towers, Searcy Homes (near the Von Braun Center), and Sparkman Homes. This is welcome news, but was expected since the federal government does not like to redevelop properties in poor neighborhoods. It would much prefer to export problems elsewhere by relocating these families to middle-class neighborhoods.
– The HHA has spent nearly $1 million dollars in recent years funding youth services programs run by the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Boy Scouts, and Girls, Inc. Dr. Belvia Matthews, a psychologist hired by the HHA to assess the effectiveness of these programs, presented an overall positive report, but there are significant questions about the quality of the data she was provided. In particular, she stated that only about 35% of the children’s grades are being reported as required. While the available data showed that grades have improved over the past five years, it is difficult to see how anything conclusive can be determined when two-thirds of the grades are not included in the statistics.
– In the most contentious item of the meeting, the HHA staff recommended that the board authorize the preparation of a grant request to tear down and redevelop the Brookside project near the former Downtown Rescue Mission off of Governors Drive. The staff argued that there are currently NSP funds available, and because of private investment already in place in the Lowe Mill area, Brookside would likely be viewed favorably by the federal officials reviewing the proposal. This idea was strongly opposed by board member Dick Fountain, who argued that there is little chance the HHA could pull together a successful proposal before the November 17 deadline, and that the $60,000 to $80,000 cost of the preparing the proposal was likely a waste of money. In the end, the board voted to approve the motion in spite of Mr. Fountain’s vociferous opposition. What is truly astounding here is that until now, Brookside has never been mentioned as a candidate for redevelopment. If this grant proposal is successful, this would mean 72 more displaced public housing families for which the HHA would have to find alternative accommodations. As one older lady who is a current resident of Brookside told the board, “It seems like you’re biting off more than you can chew.” Amen.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - After two drug busts in just two weeks on the same street, South Huntsville residents are being proactive against crime in their community.
A group that was formed back in May is holding meetings with law enforcement and encouraging people to meet their neighbors in the hopes of detecting crime that could be happening right next door.
Mahogany Row in South Huntsville has become synonymous with some unpleasant incidents in the past few weeks.
Tiffany Rogers has been a witness to it. "The street was covered in about six sheriff's vans and they had a tarp on the floor with one meth lab on the tarp," Rogers said.
A meth bust in one building one week and a crack bust in the adjacent building the next week, has left residents with a strong message. "You really don't know who your neighbors are," Rogers said.
Jennifer Steele of the South Huntsville Civic Association wants to change that. She said the anonymous tip that led to the bust of seven meth labs in one home is a good start.
"We're excited that people are taking the initiative to report criminal activities. We think that's the best way to keep our neighborhood safe," Steele said.
It's a movement that's catching on with each meeting they have. "We had several hundred people come and we talked about the importance of community watch," Steele said.
As for Rogers, she said she's seen one drug bust too many. "Yes, for sure, it definitely made us even more anxious to get out of the neighborhood," she said. But Steele said the recent busts show that law enforcement is taking an active approach in the community.
WAFF 48 News spoke to Councilwoman Sandra Moon who said part of the problem is absentee landlords, who don't vet tenants thoroughly or monitor their properties regularly.
She said the only way the city can combat this is to make sure these properties are up to code.
'They kicked the sleeping giant wide awake,' Moon says The furor over public housing, it seems, was only the beginning.
Hundreds of citizens of south Huntsville gathered at Grissom High School on Tuesday night to expand their list of concerns, now adding "drug houses," halfway homes and school violence.
City Councilwoman Sandra Moon began the third public meeting of the South Huntsville Civic Association by saying the southern end of the city had long sat out of local politics. That has changed. "In February they kicked the sleeping giant wide awake," said Moon, referring to the Huntsville Housing Authority's creation this year of permanent public housing near Chaffee Elementary.
Moon also said she was attempting to stop the creation of an early-release home in south Huntsville for prisoners. She said that most available sites were in north and west Huntsville, but that the City Council lacked the power to block the project.
Jeannee Gannuch, membership chair for the new Civic Association, spoke next. She warned that the Housing Authority still plans to tear down and relocate hundreds of its apartments. She said south Huntsville has been named a likely recipient.
"This is just the beginning," said Gannuch, facing a crowd of more than 250. "This is being crammed down our throats by a government agency that is out of control." Gannuch encouraged members to pack the authority's public hearing scheduled for Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. at the Oscar Mason Center.
However, crime prevention was the stated topic of Tuesday's meeting. The audience offered numerous concerns, such as police are too slow to raid drug houses and students are able to abuse drugs at school.
Police Chief Henry Reyes said Huntsville has a low crime rate compared with Mobile or Birmingham, but has more drug houses than his staff can easily handle.
One parent said police drug dogs should patrol schools. Another parent argued that Grissom should have more police officers since it's three times the size of several other high schools.
City school board member Jennie Robinson said that the schools are safe, but that transfers from across the city are bringing some problems, and no new resources, to south Huntsville.
Late in the meeting, Nelson Chatelain stood up and, without waiting for the microphone, said that families moved to south Huntsville because it was different.
"If we keep going the way we're going," he said, "we will be north Huntsville."
The Huntsville Housing Authority (HHA) is back in the news today via a front page Huntsville Times story on HHA board member Dick Fountain’s idea to redevelop Sparkman Homes. His plan would demolish the current project and give the land to the city school system in exchange for the now-closed Terry Heights Elementary School. A new housing project would then be built on the Terry Heights property and a new school would be built on the current Sparkman Homes property. It is unclear why this has now become front-page news. These plans have been around for months, the HHA grant proposal for this project was recently denied by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the support for the idea among the other members of the HHA board appears to be somewhat muted. Nevertheless, Fountain is pushing for a new grant proposal to be generated next spring.
From the time it was proposed, the South Huntsville Civic Association has been leery of this project because it would require that the current Sparkman Homes residents be relocated during construction of the new project, and we all know where the HHA would like to relocate them. Even after completion of the new project, it would be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.
All of that said, the real kicker in the article comes at the end when delusional fantasy once again gets passed off as reasoned analysis:
Fountain this week contended that Sparkman Homes should be the authority’s next big project….
“To me, the whole area [Terry Heights] could turn around,” Fountain said. He suggested that the authority could again seek a federal grant to raze Sparkman Homes as early as next spring.
Last year, the authority hired the Center for Governmental Services at Auburn University to study possible uses for the combined Terry Heights and Sparkman Homes neighborhoods. The authority this month provided a copy of the study to The Times.
The study includes four general scenarios, ranging from “do nothing” to tearing down the old public housing, renovating the Terry Heights area and building the new school.
The three scenarios other than “do nothing” all suggest razing Sparkman Homes, and all suggest the possibility of adding “upscale mixed-income housing units” to draw new residents to the area. “For the Terry Heights and Sparkman Homes neighborhood, the deconcentration of poverty is identified as a priority outcome,” according to the Auburn study.
Michael Lundy, executive director of the authority, said he wouldn’t comment on which options in the study he preferred before meeting with the community members, as well as hearing more from city and school officials.
“I think everybody thinks there are some interesting concepts,” Lundy said. “We’re still having some discussions to determine what would be the best option.”
As has been discussed here before, there is absolutely zero evidence to suggest that efforts to “deconcentrate poverty” or build “mixed-income” developments actually do anything to benefit communities or reduce the rampant social problems found in public housing. The reason is obvious: New buildings and new neighborhoods do nothing to change the kinds of self-destructive behaviors that cause people to end up in public housing to begin with. But the proponents of such ideas are not interested in mudane things like facts and evidence because their intentions are so pure as to be beyond reproach. Anyone who points out reality obviously just hates poor people.
The SHCA, City Councilwoman Sandra Moon, and others have repeatedly asked the HHA to provide even one example of a “poverty deconcentration” effort anywhere in the country that has demonstrated long-term success. Similarly, we have requested data showing the housing authority’s success rate at moving residents from dependency to self-sufficiency. The HHA has ignored these requests. Instead, we only get more hand-waving, more pie-in-the-sky fantasies, and more condescension and name-calling.
And lest you forget: Your tax dollars are paying for all of this.
In other news at Monday's meeting:
Lundy, the executive director, told the board that the authority had bought the seven houses discussed last month, houses that the authority will fix up and possibly sell to help public housing residents move toward homeownership.
Lundy also said he located two more single-family homes on Drummond Road and Gallatin Road in south Huntsville. He said he could seek approval for purchase next month.
Lundy said the authority had federal approval last month to buy five federally owned houses being used by evacuees of Hurricane Katrina. Lundy said he had identified two more for possible purchase, including one on Broadmore Road in north Huntsville and another on Mountain Creek Drive in Monrovia.
The Huntsville Housing Authority (HHA) board of directors had its monthly meeting yesterday, and Executive Director Michael Lundy announced yet another South Huntsville single-family home the HHA will soon be purchasing: This one on Drummond Road, near Whitesburg Elementary and Middle Schools. Like the rest of the homes the HHA is purchasing, this one will either be sold or rented, but will in either case be designated for use as “affordable housing”.
There was no word as of yesterday as to when “affordable housing” will be made available at The Ledges or in Twickenham.
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