While no action was taken during Wednesday’s V.I. Housing Authority Board meeting, updates on the agency’s complete transition to local control brought up concerns about training and meeting new requirements from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on what constitutes “reasonable housing.”
At the board’s meeting last month, members said the official transition agreement between the federal and local governments is still unsigned and that the board had to agree on what conditions stipulated by HUD could or could not be met. On Wednesday, Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham and board chair Noreen Michael also spoke about conditions relating to specific training for board members, which Michael said needed to be addressed in short order.
The “Lead the Way” training includes five different modules put together by HUD as a way to certify board members in the public housing management process. Michael said all board members were supposed to have signed up already and, since none had, Michael proposed either having a retreat or having board members meet an hour before their monthly meetings to tackle each section.
While one member was concerned about having to go through the training even though her term on the board was limited to three years, Michael said that satisfying the training requirement was a critical part of the transition agreement, no matter how long the current commissioners serve.
In his director’s report, Graham said he was concerned about the progress being made on items recently listed by HUD as general requirements for “reasonable housing,” which he said includes providing emotional support to residents along with physical support.
Graham said that the progress on these items “is insufficient” at this time and that the authority would be working harder to get them all addressed by the end of the fourth quarter of this fiscal year.
Documentation also has to be submitted to show that each task has been completed, Graham said.
“There are some things that need to be implemented on a site-by-site basis,” Graham said. “There are things on the maintenance and management side that should have been done already, like changes in pressure on entranceway doors for example, that need to be done and we’re going to make sure they are.”
Board members said they were still “pleased” that, to date, the authority has been able to complete 60 percent of overall maintenance issues, along with a majority of management issues.
In his report, Graham also said that a recent meeting with Gov. Kenneth Mapp has helped to create a partnership between the Housing Authority, Housing Finance Authority, the government and the Economic Development Authority that would lead to a master plan for the development of certain housing communities on St. Croix, including the Ralph de Chabert community.
A request for proposals for a developer will be released within the next 30 days, and Graham said it a four to five month response time is anticipated before collaboration will start on the master plan.
A charrette for stakeholders in the area, starting from the LBJ Housing Community and running eastward toward the D. Hamilton Jackson Community, will also be held to determine “what is the best economic driver for the area,” Graham said.