Housing agency seeks funds to rehab empty tower units

HUDSON—New officers, empty apartments, in-house vs contract renovations and roof problems, highlighted the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) meeting on October 14. Hudson Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga (D) attended. She represents Hudson’s 2nd Ward. The HHA runs the 135-unit income-restricted Bliss complex, which is located in that ward.

HHA’s seven-member Board of Commissioners selected officers for the year at the meeting: Marie Balle, chair; Revonda Smith, vice-chair; and Rebecca Wolff, treasurer. The other commissioners are Edrick Brown, Claire Cousin, Robert Davis, and Randall Martin, was the previous chair. Mr. Brown and Mr. Davis are tenant commissioners; they live in Bliss.

Ms. Balle, who has served on the board since 2018 said her goals included:

• To get funding to fix the apartments, elevators and roof at Bliss

• To work with the City of Hudson to expand affordable housing

• To encourage a stronger tenants’ association.

After the board election, HHA Executive Director Tim Mattice’s reported on a loan application, which led to discussions about 25 empty apartments that require renovations before they can be rented. And this led to discussions of who will do the work.

HHA is beginning to apply for a loan, with the help of Hunt Realty. “You will decide” how much to borrow when more information is available, Mr. Mattice told the Board. “We’re eligible to borrow up to $8 million, but we don’t need $8 million.”

Mr. Mattice called the loan essential for replacing the housing tower’s elevator and roof, for “reimbursing” the HHA for more than $200,000 the agency spent from its existing funds to replace the rooftop boilers, and for rehabilitating the 25 empty apartments.

He said that HHA is receiving subsidies from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for vacant units and that there are families that need housing and should be in the vacant units.

The topic of apartments kept empty and unavailable for rent—a status called “off-line”—has come up before and it came up this month when concerning work reportedly done recently on those apartments.

‘We need to have the apartments renovated efficiently and professionally.’

Tim Mattice, exec. director

Hudson Housing Authority

Ms. Smith, who joined the board this spring, said she thought HHA was waiting for a loan to begin rehabilitating them. “I thought we had no money to do it,” she said.

Mr. Mattice said HHA had the capacity to do something now with “a small amount of operating funds,” And some of those funds were earmarked for apartment renovation. But he cautioned, “We have to be careful about what we do with it, because it’s finite. We need to save money for a rainy day.”

He said nobody expected that putting the apartments back on line. “It’s my biggest frustration right now. We’re all frustrated,” Mr. Mattice said.

He said that recently HHA had renovation work done. This work included removing items from a bathroom, because, “we can do it more cheaply with our staff than with a contractor.”

Ms. Smith suggested that instead of putting 15 bathtubs and showers in 15 different apartments—with all 15 units still uninhabitable—why not use the money to fully rehabilitate one or more apartments and rent them.

In addition, some commissioners asked about saving more money by doing all the renovation work with HHA staff.

Certain electrical, plumbing and sheetrock procedures require licenses and certifications that HHA maintenance people do not have, Mr. Mattice said. “We need to have the apartments renovated efficiently and professionally.”

In addition, said Mr. Martin, “local maintenance already has its hands full.”

Some off-line apartments are in better condition than other ones, observed Ms. Balle. “Are there any that we can get on line quickly, by our own maintenance staff?” she asked.

She suggested that the board tour the off-line apartments to see if their condition has changed since their last tour, and to give the new commissioners a look at them.

Mr. Mattice also said that chunks of cement are falling off the roof of Bliss Tower and Ms. Balle said the building has experienced leaks.

Alderwoman Garriga reported, “I was contacted by one of my constituents who had to be moved out of her Bliss apartment because her entire ceiling collapsed. In the livingroom, the kitchen, the bathroom. Fortunately, she was not hurt.” Ms. Garriga said that this episode occurred this year and the constituent now has a new apartment, also at Bliss.

The Bliss complex is not part of the state funded Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). In 2018, the HHA was slated to receive DRI funds for the housing it was planning to construct across State Street from Bliss, but those plans were suspended in 2019.

“My constituents and their family and friends contacted me about Bliss’ basketball court’s No Trespassing sign,” Ms. Garriga said. “This is public housing, it is a public park, we are community. The sign is intimidating for children who live in Schuyler Court and Hudson Terrace. Why are we using this type of intimidation on children?”

The basketball court also received attention at the September HHA meeting. Then it was complaints people raised about, among other things, the poor condition of the courts after “outsiders” used them.

The October 14 meeting took place in person, because the commissioners had to vote in person. The next meeting of the HHA Board of Commissioners will probably take place online over Zoom. Since the HHA office is closed Veterans Day, the meeting will occur Wednesday, November 18, at 6 p.m.

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