Public-housing redevelopment funding on council agenda - The Daily Progress: News

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Public-housing redevelopment funding on council agenda

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Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013 5:50 pm | Updated: 5:54 pm, Sun Jan 6, 2013.

Two years of turmoil and disagreements have stalled a plan to redevelop city public housing.

Now, the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority stands to lose $400,000 originally intended to kick off the redevelopment process. The City Council, which allocated the money to the authority in late 2011, will vote on a resolution Monday night to reallocate the funding to the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program and Habitat for Humanity.

City officials said the money will be replaced in the upcoming budget cycle.

"The bottom line is there is no attempt to take anything away from [the redevelopment authority], but that project is not ready to spend anything right now, so the thought is to move it to projects that are," said Jim Tolbert, Charlottesville director of neighborhood services.

Another $250,000 of redevelopment authority money, originally allocated strictly for architecture and engineering, will be repurposed for general uses to try to jumpstart the project.

The redevelopment authority, the Public Housing Association of Residents and the city have gone back and forth over resident involvement in redevelopment decision making.

Brandon Collins, a spokesman for the Public Housing Association of Residents, said the redevelopment authority is to blame for the project's sluggishness.

Collins decried what he sees as the authority's unwillingness to allow residents to serve on the board of a nonprofit group being formed to handle redevelopment.

The city is in the process of establishing the Charlottesville Development Corp., which would oversee the planning and construction of public housing.

"The most recent real holdup was yes, [the redevelopment authority] wants to get the [corporation] going, but they didn't want to consult with a duly elected body of residents," Collins said. "We really just want a chance to talk to the folks who are going to be on that committee. We really want this committee to happen, and we want it to happen soon."

Justin Halbert, former chairman of the redevelopment fund board of commissioners, said in a letter to The Daily Progress published Dec. 30 that the corporation needs a board made up of "skilled professionals" rather than "well-meaning activists."

Money being moved away from the redevelopment fund is no surprise, Halbert said.

"While I’m disappointed that city staff recommended diverting some funds away from public housing redevelopment, it is symptomatic of the problems I highlighted in my recent op-ed," he said in an email Friday.

Halbert's letter outlined turmoil at the redevelopment authority as another reason for the delays. In 14 years, he said, the authority has been through five executive directors, hiring the last in April.

Dave Norris, a city councilor and outgoing chairman of the redevelopment authority, said getting resident voices heard on the corporation's board is a critical step in the redevelopment process.

"Sometimes, some of the criticisms coming from the public can be overheated, but generally speaking, what they are asking for is to be treated with decency, and to live in decent housing," he said.

If the resolution passes Monday night, the housing improvement program will get $100,000 toward its emergency repair initiative, which fixes minor issues in public housing units.

That initiative is one of the program's most successful, Tolbert said.

The other $300,000 will go to Habitat for infrastructure investments at a proposed mixed-income development on Avon Street.




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