Hollywood Courts Residents Say Rufurbish, Don’t Demolish

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(APN) ATLANTA — Hollywood Courts residents held a meeting in chairs outside of their community center this evening, because Atlanta Housing Authority has locked them out of their center and refused to let them hold their meeting inside, according to Diane Wright, President of Hollywood Courts resident association and the city-wide Resident Advisory Board (RAB).

The resident association approved a plan which they plan to submit to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to refurbish their community instead of tearing it down.

The residents also stated their interest in forming a co-op by purchasing their community from AHA and managing and refurbishing it themselves.

The full text of the plan is as follows:

We the people of Hollywood Courts tenant association hereby resolve:

We have adopted a plan to refurbish our community with AHA’s funds they’ve set aside for relocation:

$90,900 — fixing pest infestation

$95,950 — accessibility modifications

$129,750 — storm sewer repair

$909,000 — HVAC system (central air and heating)

$116,150 — remove old AC, heater

Total — $1,341,750

We know the HVAC costs should be lower because all units have no AC to remove; all units already have heaters; and some residents may not require new HVAC units.

Whereas we disagree with AHA’s claims about the buildings.

Whereas we want to hire residents to do the work.

Whereas the majority of residents do not want to move.

Whereas we are interested in purchasing our community, managing it ourselves, and starting a co-op.

(End of resolution text)

HUD’s Special Applications Center has been reviewing demolition applications for Hollywood Courts, Bowen Homes, and Bankhead Courts since March 2008. They’ve been reviewing applications for Palmer House, Roosevelt House, Thomasville, and Herndon Homes since February 2008.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, AHA made fraudulent claims to HUD in demolition applications for Hollywood Courts and Palmer House regarding the physical condition of the buildings. APN has not yet reviewed the other applications’ architectural reports, although they are likely also fraudulent because the contents of the applications are very similar to each other.

Despite AHA’s claims that they do not have money to repair Hollywood Courts, AHA told HUD they have set aside $1,781,907 for relocation for Hollywood Courts, including money to pay staff salaries for relocation teams and to give a few hundred dollars to each family for moving costs.

Therefore, Hollywood Courts residents’ refurbishing plan costs less than AHA’s planned costs for relocation, not to mention the funds they have allotted for demolition.

Due to AHA’s participation in Move to Work (MTW), a federal demonstration program, AHA has the flexibility to spend its funds on repairs or demolitions if it chooses.

AHA claims Hollywood Courts is “physically obsolete” and, to quote director Renee Glover, “decrepit.”

However, as exclusively reported by APN because no other media is paying attention, Praxis 3 architectural firm’s report for Hollywood Courts states the buildings are structurally sound.

Praxis 3 finds only two physical issues with Hollywood Courts: pest infestation and storm sewer overflow.

Therefore, Hollywood Courts residents’ refurbishing plan addresses both physical issues raised by Praxis 3, in addition addressing handicap accessibility issues and providing each unit with central air and heating.

The budget figures in residents’ plans are actually pulled from Praxis 3’s own budget. However, Praxis 3’s budget also included numerous unnecessary luxury amenities and aesthetic improvements, thus inflating their stated cost of refurbishing Hollywood Courts to over $32.8 million. Some items included in AHA and Praxis 3’s $32.8 million budget, are a swimming pool, athletic center, additions to each unit, new front porches and patios, new roofing, doors, and windows.

In order for a housing authority (HA) to propose demolition, federal regulations state the HA must show they do not have enough funds to refurbish the community. This appears to be why AHA inflated their proposed budget: so they could say it was too much to afford.

In addition to passing the resolution, Hollywood Courts residents talked also about their next steps. They said they want to drive up to Chicago to meet with Ainars Rodins and others in the Special Applications Center who are reviewing the demolition applications.

Diane Wright as well as Eleanor Rayton, President of Palmer House, are both waiting to hear back from HUD regarding their meeting request.

They would also like to protest locally, including possibly at HUD’s Atlanta regional office on Marietta Street.

The majority of Hollywood Courts residents have signed petitions stating they do not want to move, which have also been sent certified to HUD.

Hollywood Courts is in good physical condition, does not have major crime problems, and has high levels of employment. Wright runs a Section 3 business, where she employs residents in construction, painting, and maintenance jobs. Hollywood Courts has a strong residents association and close ties between neighbors.

It is located in District 9, west of Downtown Atlanta. The residents have a computer lab, training center, office, and barber shop. The community is surrounded by forest.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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