State funds expand public housing as rules tighten

HUDSON–New construction, smoking, apartment inspections, police protection and late rents dominated the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday, July 11. Hudson Mayor Rick Rector, who attended the meeting with Common Council President Tom DiPietro, said, “I hear the word on the street that things [at Bliss Tower] are getting better and better and better.”

The HHA controls Bliss Tower and the low rise Columbia Apartments on the same grounds in Hudson. Both are public housing of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

At the meeting HHA Executive Director Tim Mattice outlined construction envisioned for a site across State Street from the HHA complex: 60 to 80 units atop a ground floor with retail space. The units will be “affordable” and for “mixed income” tenants. The state grant of $800,000 to the HHA as part of the Downtown Redevelopment Initiative (DRI) will be only for that development. Mr. Mattice said the HHA and its co-developer hope to break ground in 18 to 20 months.

The Board reconfirmed its resolution adopting the smoke free policy the federal government requires for all public housing authorities to adopt by July 31. Effective August 1, smoking is prohibited anywhere in Bliss Tower, the Columbia Apartments and their yards–except for an outdoor smoking area with benches under preparation. Tenants must sign an addendum to their leases agreeing to abide by the new rules. For those caught violating it, Mr. Mattice envisioned warning verbally the first time, warning in writing the second time, and starting eviction proceedings the third time.

“How do you know if someone is smoking in their apartment?” asked Tenant Commissioner Mary Decker.

“We do regular inspections of apartments,” Mr. Mattice said.

Apartment inspections also happen for other purposes. Mr. Mattice announced that in January a private company from Ohio had inspected all the units and reported where they “passed” and where improvements need to be made. Now, he said, the HHA is making those improvements.

“What are the most egregious issues?” asked Commissioner Polly Polenberg.

“Smoke detectors were not working because tenants had removed batteries. We put in new batteries,” he replied.

Mr. Mattice also said that with the “arm weather, “we’re seeing an increase in bed bugs and roaches.” Therefore, “every unit will be inspected” for certain insects every month, and, if any are found, promptly treated.

The board also passed a resolution to enter into an agreement with the Hudson Police Department to send extra police patrols, above and beyond the normal patrols, to HHA buildings, at HHA’s expense, when tenants tell Mr. Mattice they need extra police service.

The board and Mr. Mattice also discussed the policy toward late rent payments. Proposed is that if rent is not received by 5th of month, the tenant will both have to pay a late fee and get a computer generated HUD form letter saying, “If you don’t pay within 14 days, we’ll send your lease to an attorney to begin eviction proceedings.”

“Is this one strike you’re out?” asked Commissioner Anthony Pastel.

“Typically, if there’s a hardship, they’ll come to us within 14 days, and we’ll work out a payment plan,” said Mr. Mattice.

“Could you put in the form letter that if there’s a hardship, come and talk with us?” suggested Mr. Pastel.

Tenant Commissioner Mary Decker observed, “To live here, you have to give proof of income. So the management knows who gets benefits on what day of the month. What if benefits don’t come until the 15th of the month? Do you have to pay a late fee?”

Not if they paid the current month’s rent with last month’s benefits, Mr. Mattice implied. “It’s the residents’ responsibility to budget so they will be able to pay rent the first of next month.”

“This is housing of last resort,” commented board Vice President Randall Martin. “You can’t treat it like commercial rent.”

Ms. Polenberg observed that from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018, HHA wrote off $31,000 in collection losses–rent a tenant never pays, even after leaving, voluntarily or involuntarily. Mr. Martin said that most of these losses stem from before Mr. Mattice came on in October 2017.

The Board and Mr. Mattice agreed to give the matter more consideration before enacting a policy.

Also at the meeting:

• Mr. Mattice said, “We’re still doing evictions,” without elaborating on the reason

• Mr. Mattice announced that Elena Mosley of Columbia Opportunities will run a six-week fitness and literacy program in the Bliss community room this summer.

Comments are closed.