EXCLUSIVE: HUD Reviewing Resident, APN Concerns
(APN) ATLANTA — The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) responded to the city-wide Resident Advisory Board for public housing residents, in a May 13, 2008, letter obtained exclusively by Atlanta Progressive News, acknowledging residents’ concerns and promising to analyze the issues raised both by residents as well as by APN.
“Thank you for your letter of April 28, 2008, raising your concerns about the proposed demolition of seven developments by the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA),” Ainars Rodins, Director of HUD’s Special Applications Center in Chicago, which reviews demolition applications, wrote.
“The Special Applications Center (SAC) is aware of the 82 questions raised by the Atlanta Progressive News (APN) and has incorporated their analysis in its review, along with other issues raised by interested parties received via Email and other means,” Rodins wrote.
“A final decision will not be rendered until all of the issues raised by concerned individuals have been analyzed, but we cannot commit to putting off a final decision for a specific amount of time as you request in your correspondence,” Rodins wrote.
Ms. Eleanor Rayton, President of Palmer House senior high rise, and RAB Board members had previously sent a letter and resolution, respectively, requesting a 60 to 90 day extension on HUD’s review of the applications where residents and resident leaders were not provided the chance to review or respond to applications before they were submitted to HUD.
Meanwhile, in Wright’s April 28, 2008, letter, she requested a meeting with Mr. Rodins and others at HUD in Chicago, to discuss her concerns about the applications.
Residents from Hollywood Courts, Palmer House, and the RAB Board wanted also to attend a meeting in Chicago.
“I feel a meeting here in Chicago would add little to the process since our analysis is still underway. We have spoken several times on the phone, and I am aware of your constituents’ concerns,” Rodins wrote.
It is unclear why analysis being underway would stand in the way of a meeting. After all, if Rodins met with residents after the analysis was done, it would defeat the purpose of the meeting.
As previously reported by APN, Ms. Rayton says she has spoken twice with Mr. Rodins and he told her he could not give her a date and a time for such a meeting.
Rodins attempted to assure the residents, however, that his office would review their concerns.
“The SAC reviewers have a compiled a list of the concerns that have been raised with us and will use it as their guide to get their questions answered, in addition to those they pose as part of their usual review process,” Rodins wrote.
So far, multiple parties including Atlanta Progressive News, Georgia State University Assistant Professor of Sociology Deirdre Oakley, the RAB Board, and the resident associations of Hollywood Courts and Palmer House have sent certified packages including various letters, reports, documents, and resolutions to HUD’s Chicago Office.
APN also collected comments sent from readers after encouraging readers to email their concerns about the demolition applications to firstname.lastname@example.org. APN sent in five comments from readers. If readers want to continue to send comments in, they should send them to directly to email@example.com and copy APN.
Previously, AHA promised City Council that they would respond to APN’s 82 questions, but their eventual written response was merely to thank APN for the questions and state they would consider them.
Resident leaders from the RAB Board and residents of Hollywood Courts signed a petition stating “WE WANT REAL ANSWERS!” to the 82 questions. This petition was sent in to HUD.
APN’s analysis of the demolition applications raised serious concerns about AHA’s apparent fraudulent claims regarding the physical conditions of some of the public housing buildings; AHA’s apparent fraudulent claims regarding residents’ preferences as to whether to move or stay; and the lack of evidence of available voucher-leasing opportunities for residents who would be displaced.
Recently, APN also exclusively reported that the Empire Board of Realtors is claiming that AHA only has 700 possible units identified for some 2000 families. This information was also sent to HUD.
This is the first time HUD has acknowledged Atlanta residents’ concerns in writing.
Wright told Atlanta Progressive News she was pleased to get some written response from HUD but still wants a meeting.
“I think it was very nice of him to send it, but I do have some problems with it. I just really want to know, why is it they can’t meet with us?” Wright said.
“I’m really trying to figure out, they can just throw the residents out on the street and no one from HUD wants to talk with the residents about it?” Wright said.
“It should have been answered before now. We should’ve known what was going on. It’s just like AHA is doing here, not wanting to talk to us, not wanting to meet with us like we’re nobodies,” Wright said.
At a meeting, “they’ll be able to hear our concerns, not just put ’em in an email and on paper. Maybe we could get better answers and find out what’s really going on,” Wright said.
“I think if they were going to answer the 82 questions, don’t you think they would’ve analyzed them by now so people wouldn’t be evicted?” Wright asked. Residents claim that AHA is already evicting many residents living in public housing on lease violations and criminal background, in order to empty out the communities before an application is approved.
“I just think they’re holding something back,” Wright said.
About the author:
Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor of The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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