Housing Authority eager for new ‘RAD’ status

HUDSON—Conversion to its new funding status, security and procurement were topics that dominated the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) meeting January 8.

The HHA controls Hudson’s income-restricted Bliss Tower (120 units) and Columbia Apartments (15 units in three low-rises). Its Board of Commissioners has positions for seven members, though currently only five of those positions are filled. Rebecca Wolff, a housing activist just elected to Hudson’s Common Council (1st Ward), is the newest member. Then Mayor Rick Rector picked her for the seat late last year. New Mayor Kamal Johnson is expected to pick the two remaining commissioners.

HHA Executive Director Tim Mattice reported that HHA’s conversion from public housing to a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) can happen within 30 to 90 days. “We’ve received a commitment to close,” he said. “We’re anticipating a closing in late February or early March…. It won’t affect the residents. Obviously, they’ll have to sign new leases, with RAD language. But they’re still protected under tenants’ rights.”

One change will be how long an apartment can stay empty, while the government compensates HHA for it. Right now under the rules for public housing set by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the time limit is three years. Under RAD, it will be only one year. Commissioner Marie Balle, vice-chair of the board, approved of the change, saying, “We should have incentives to get apartments rented.”

Mr. Mattice kept saying that RAD conversion will put the HHA “on a more stable financial footing.”

“We’ll get funds from the federal government for 20 years with the 3% cost of living increase.” RAD status will allow it to borrow money from the private sector.

“I’m not used to hearing speaking of debt as positive,” said Ms. Wolff.

“Debt will make us more solvent,” said Mr. Mattice. “We can save our other money and put it into accounts for future expenses and won’t have to borrow in the future.”

“We don’t have to give up a percent of the building,” added Ms. Balle. “This isn’t debt equity. It’s just debt.”

“We have control and complete autonomy. We won’t have a partner to boss us,” said Mr. Mattice.

Early last year the HHA planned to construct more residential buildings, and for that it would have had a development partner, which would have owned 60% of the entity. Those plans have been suspended, pending a complete redesign.

On another matter, Commissioner Randall Martin, chairman of the board, asked, “What do people say about the enhanced lighting?” a reference to lighting in the front of Bliss Tower.

Tenant Commissioners Robert Davis and Martin Martinez said nobody has said anything about it.

It was part of a security measure, Mr. Martin reminded them.

“The only thing people ask about security is when we are going to get a security guard,” said Bliss resident Mary Decker. “What about the security guard? When are we getting it?”

“When the board decides the specifics,” said Mr. Mattice.

“We’re in a holding pattern for RAD conversion,” said Mr. Martin. “We should hire the guard in April and start in June.”

The board also approved a new procurement policy designed by Mr. Mattice, pending an addendum with modifications suggested by the board. Mr. Mattice said, “When I started here, there were two or three procurement policies floating around.” It was not clear which were in effect and which the board had approved, he said, so he cobbled together his own updated policy, based on government guidelines.

The board modifications include raising the limit of expenses the executive director can commit to without board approval from $20,000 to $30,000. The board may also, with input from Legal Counsel Michael Bruno, waive the full-board approval requirement for expenditures over $30,000 in case of emergencies so time-sensitive that they cannot wait until the next board meeting.

The policy also is to acknowledge a preference for hiring and buying “locally.” Ms. Wolff wanted to make sure hiring priority went to local people.

“I’ll add language about priority purchase locally,” Mr. Mattice, said.

Also at the meeting:

• The Board extended a consulting arrangement with the Catskill Housing Authority (CHA), originally

slated to end December 31, 2019, to run instead to March 31, 2020. Last year CHA’s executive director left suddenly. “They needed help,” explained Mr. Martin. So since October 1 of that year, Mr. Mattice has been consulting the CHA. Mr. Mattice said he spends 10 to 15 hours a week at the CHA. For this, the CHA pays the HHA $200 an hour

• Mr. Mattice announced that an application for a $500,000 CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) application has been submitted on time, with a decision anticipated to come in March or early April.

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