CAMBRIDGE HOUSING AUTHORITY GETS OK TO MOVE FORWARD WITH PLAN TO CONVERT PUBLIC HOUSING PORTFOLIO USING HUD’S RENTAL ASSISTANCE DEMONSTRATION
Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) and Keene Housing (KH) announced today the merging of their college internship programs, called “Policy and Technology Labs East/West (P&TL E/W)” to offer interns from Southwestern New Hampshire and Southeastern Vermont opportunities to study issues impacting low-income urban communities and interns from greater Boston opportunities to study the challenges facing low-income rural families.
On May 1, 2012 Gregory P. Russ, CHA's Executive Director, participated in the Disrupting the Poverty Cycle conference organized by Crittenton and Women's Union (CWU). The conference focused on 'Emerging Practices to Achieve Economic Mobility'. In this occassion, Mr. Russ presented some reform ideas the agency is considering as it focus efforts on offering a more comprehensive housing assistance to low-income families. Mr. Russ was joined by Ms. Ruth Liberman, Vice President of Public Policy at CWU in the panel titled 'Co-Investment for Social Change: Shifting Government from Subsidizing to Investing'.
CAMBRIDGE, MA – In an unprecedented move, a group of Housing Authorities from across the nation sent a joint letter asking HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to cut costly red tape that the Housing Authorities say are making it impossible to keep critical housing programs running. “When the federal government provides us 75 cents for every dollar it takes to administer the voucher program and cuts the funding to modernize and make repairs to public housing apartments by more than 33 percent in 2 years, we simply can't afford needless bureaucracy,” said Houston Housing Authority President and CEO Tory Gunsolley, one of eleven Housing Authority leaders requesting relief from HUD. “With so much less money, now more than ever, housing authorities need the authority from HUD to put as much as possible directly into housing services.”
The group, which provides affordable housing to over 78,000 low-income families in America, is asking the Secretary to streamline processes and make it easier for them to maintain their programs in today’s difficult funding environment without hurting the low-income people they serve. Using the proposed process, each Housing Authority will be able to ask HUD to quickly allow them to cut red tape in 3 areas - resident services, housing development and operational efficiencies - as their local needs dictate. “The proposal we submit will allow us, as well as other agencies, to streamline processes and procedures without sacrificing residents’ rights or HUD’s ability to account for how each of us is using taxpayer money,” said Keith Kinard, Executive Director of the Newark Housing Authority. “Under our proposal, we can use the diminishing support we receive from HUD much more effectively to ensure we are protecting resident rights while, at the same time, freeing up taxpayer funds for programs that would otherwise be used for processes.”
The group's proposal outlines how the HUD Secretary can use existing legal authority to streamline program operations so the can that the fewer available dollars can stretch further and better address local needs. The proposed process is similar to a Department of Education initiative that grants localities flexibility from some of the one-size-fits-all requirements of the "No Child Left Behind Act." The streamlined process proposed by the group would also enable HUD to more quickly review and approve similar proposals. “Under the current system, it could take an agency as much as a year to get HUD approval to implement cost-saving measures,” said Anthony O’Leary, Executive Director of the Akron (OH) Housing Authority. “Under this proposal, agencies can take advantage of the HUD Secretary's existing legal authority to save more money faster, so that residents can be better served even in these lean times.”
The group is hopeful that given the lack of progress Congress and HUD have made on past efforts at long-overdue reform, their request will be well received by HUD officials. According to Cambridge (MA) Housing Authority Executive Director Gregory P. Russ, “Both the President and Secretary Donovan have publicly committed to eliminating senseless regulations. Cambridge already benefits from a program called Moving to Work that allows Cambridge to make our scarce federal dollars go further and focus on serving our clients. This proposal provides a way for other housing authorities to similarly benefit from cutting unnecessary red tape.” Preston Prince, Executive Director of the Housing Authorities of the City and County of Fresno (CA) adds, “This proposal is precisely what the Administration is looking for. We are providing the Department with a vehicle for cutting red tape so that we can use more of our dollars to assist low-income families that are in desperate need of our help. We are confident that HUD will seize this opportunity and run with it.”
The eleven Agencies requesting that HUD act on the proposal to cut red tape are the Akron Housing Authority (OH), the Brunswick Housing Authority (ME), the Cambridge Housing Authority (MA), the Fayette County Housing Authority (PA), the Housing Authorities of the City and County of Fresno (CA), the Houston Housing Authority (TX), the Laurinburg Housing Authority (NC), the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority VIII (MS), the Newark Housing Authority (NJ), the New Brunswick Housing & Redevelopment Authority (NJ) and the St. Paul Public Housing Agency (MN). The Agencies represent a mix of large, medium and small Housing Authorities from across the country.
Along with the proposal, the Housing Authorities have asked the Secretary for a meeting to discuss their recommendations.
General Counsel, Cambridge Housing Authority