Monday, September 28, 2009

A New Vision of Affordable Housing


A New Vision of Affordable Housing Here

Link to the original story in the Register-Star

Bliss Towers on Second Street between Columbia and State streets in Hudson.
By Jamie Larson Hudson-Catskill Newspapers
Published: Saturday, September 26, 2009 1:16 AM CDT

City and Hudson Housing Authority officials met with residents of the Bliss Towers low-income housing complex Thursday night to discuss the future of affordable subsidized housing in Hudson. The plan involves creating numerous smaller housing units throughout areas of the city and eventually demolish the problem ridden high-rise and low-rise at the intersection of Columbia and Second streets.

Officials said the plan to create up-to-date, more comfortable and convenient housing will increase the quality of life for those living in the Housing Authority run apartments. Though the plan is in its infancy, officials wanted to meet with residents to lay out their intentions and alleviate any concerns that those living in the complex would be displaced. “This will be a benefit to Hudson, but most importantly it will be a benefit to all of you,” Supervisor William Hughes told residents at the meeting. “We want to eliminate the fear factor immediately.”

According to New York State Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards, officials said, any new housing project would have to provide at least the exact same number of units currently provided by the Hudson Housing Authority. Nearly every official who spoke at the gathering stressed repeatedly that not only would no resident be displaced, but their rent would not be increased beyond the Section 8 subsidy standard of one third of a resident’s monthly income.

At the outset of the meeting Hughes said that nothing about the project is set in stone and tenants are encouraged to get involved and give input on all aspects of the process. Housing Authority Executive Director Jeffrey First said everyone needs to have a clear understanding that it may take years just to find the funding for the project and perhaps a decade before it could be completed. “We went through this 10 years ago and it was very uncomfortable,”

First said, “because everyone thought the high-rise was coming down in two weeks.”First said that starting the process to plan for new housing now is imperative so that something can actually be accomplished in the future, whatever the final shape of the project may look like. First spoke bluntly to the residents, who he works with closely on a daily basis, calling Bliss Towers a “money pit.” He said the Housing Authority has spent $11 million in the last 10 to 15 years trying to maintain the building. The complex was built during the Urban Renewal project of the 1970s. First said the standards then just are not sufficient to meet the needs of residents today.

First said that past plans to create low-income housing had to be abandoned when revenue sources through HUD were pulled by the government during the administration of President George W. Bush. Now however, President Barrack Obama has shown renewed interest and support for improving the quality of subsidized housing. Much of the Housing Authority’s plan hinges on whether or not The U.S. Congress passes the Livable Communities Act. The legislation would bring back the type of HUD funding the Hudson project needs.

The Housing Authority has hired Omni Housing Development, LLC, to develop the city’s new housing plan. At Thursday’s public meeting Omni Chief Operating Officer Duncan Barrett broke down the few absolutes about what the project would entail if it moves forward, and tried to emphasize the importance of the notion that residents will be able to help sculpt the process. Barrett said that HUD looks for funding requests from projects that have a high level of community involvement, so the more that Bliss residents can do to make the plan a ground-up process the better.

“This (tower) has been lived-up beyond its useful life and is functionally obsolete,” Barrett said, adding, “these things take a long time. You shouldn’t expect immediate results here, but you should demand good results. And no one has to move until we have built you a new house, it’s as simple as that.”

Many of the questions involved the costs and amenities of the potential apartments. Barrett said those details are flexible and are the kinds of things his company will be looking to discuss with the community in the future.

Some of the proposed housing will be in the footprints of where the high-rise and low-rise now stand. The idea of seeding Section 8 housing throughout the city to create economic diversity was well-received by the crowd.

Barrett also said that, as opposed to the current system, senior and family unit would be separated in the new one to four unit structures. This way senior specific, and handicapped amenities can be provided to those who need them.

Hughes said that while this proposal should bring hope to Bliss residents everyone needs to be patient because the speed that the project will move forward will depend completely on acquiring funding. He said residents need to call the offices of their political representatives to show that they want this. Hughes says he has discussed beginning an advisory committee with Mayor Richard Scalera, Jeffrey First, city officials and Housing Authority residents to ensure the project doesn’t fall to the back burner.

The numerous other officials in the room, including the residents representation on the Common Council, Second Ward Aldermen Wanda Pertilla and Abdus Miah, said they are available to answer their constituents questions and concerns, and hope the community can come together to push the project forward as well as continue to spread the word that not one resident will be displaced.

My words:
As promised, this story substantiates the fact that I'm working hard to improve the housing conditions in the City of Hudson. Mayor Scalera and I along with other elected officials have embarked on an ambitious project that would redevelop the lower half of Hudson, including the Bliss Tower's area. It is our belief, that with the redevelopment of the lower half of Hudson, we will make the City of Hudson more marketable to capital investors, creating jobs as a result. Obviously, this will not happen overnight. Mayor Scalera and I have put a 3 - 5 year time-line in place to get the project off the ground. Getting funding for a project of this magnitude will take a lot of hard work and dedication from all involved. If we are successful with the development of the Waterfront, Bliss Tower's area and implementation of a County wide transportation system, the City of Hudson will be the benefactor. As a result, I believe, we will be able to lower taxes, create jobs, and make Hudson the place to be in Columbia County.
William Hughes Jr.
4th Ward Supervisor
City of Hudson
Col. Co. Bd. of Supervisors
" Let experience work for you"