HUDSON—Apartment rehabilitation, asbestos and stairwell socializing were among the subjects that received attention at the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners meeting last month.
The HHA runs the 135-unit income-restricted Bliss housing complex in Hudson.
Of the 135 units, 110 are on-line. They are either rented or available to rent. The other 25 are off-line: kept uninhabited pending rehabilitation.
Of the 25 off-line units, Housing Authority officials say seven can be made habitable quickly using money the HHA already has, and the HHA has bought materials needed to make those apartments habitable. In December, HHA Executive Director Tim Mattice said the HHA hoped to get the seven apartments ready to rent by the end of January.
Enter asbestos regulations. They have now delayed the renovation because of asbestos in floors and glue. Before proceeding with construction work, the HHA must get a variance from the state that the repair and abatement work will follow “best practices” where asbestos is present.
“It’s frustrating,” said Mr. Mattice. He said he has called the state twice about the HHA’s application for a variance. But application processing tends to be slower now than before.
All public housing built before the mid-1970’s has asbestos, Mr. Mattice added. In Bliss, at least the asbestos is not in the drywall, he said. The best way to deal with asbestos in the floor is to seal it in by covering it with a new layer of flooring.
Money to rehabilitate the seven apartments comes from HHA operating funds. To rehabilitate the other apartments will be more complicated and expensive. At the January 13 meeting one commissioner asked about rehabilitating as many apartments as the HHA can with its remaining operating funds. But the board acknowledged that doing so would leave less money for emergencies. “The cloud hanging over us is uncertainty about the elevators,” Mr. Mattice said. The HHA must keep enough operating money on hand in case an elevator breaks down. It has already applied for a grant to fix the elevators but did not succeed, he reported.
The HHA is planning to borrow money from the private sector. Representatives of a potential lender spoke to the meeting about loan possibilities. But HHA board members decided that before going into debt, they should clarify the HHA’s goals.
Hudson Housing Authority
Board Chair Marie Balle noted that some goals are short term, some long term, some negotiable, some non-negotiable. An example of a short-term non-negotiable goal is to fix the elevators. Other goals include fixing the roof and rehabilitating all the off-line apartments in Bliss Tower. Still to be determined is whether to rehabilitate the six off-line units in the low-rise Columbia Apartments, whether to keep all three Columbia Apartment buildings standing, whether to build additional housing on HHA grounds and if so what form that housing should will take, and whether to rehabilitate inhabited apartments at Bliss Tower.
Two approaches to making decisions came up: Some Board members proposed first settling on goals, finding out how much they will cost, and then applying for loans and grants to cover those goals; but Mr. Mattice suggested first applying for loans and grants, seeing how much money the HHA can get, and then determining how much the HHA can do with the available money.
One board member said that once the HHA agrees to a loan, the Housing Authority should make sure the money is spent on what the board had agreed to use it for.
On another matter, Tenant Commissioner Robert Davis reported that “young teenagers” have been congregating in a Bliss stairwell, smoking and playing music. Bliss tenants have come up to him and telephoned him to complain about this. Many of the youths in the stairwell are not Bliss residents, Mr. Davis said. Some of the same people are there day after day. He reported that he has talked with the teens, but the problem persists.
“This is not a Bliss problem, this is a mayor’s problem. My responsibility is to the tenants of this building,” Mr. Davis said,
The Board observed that Hudson’s Youth Center and most youth services are closed, it is January and “they have nowhere to go.” Board members suggested putting heat lamps in the smoking shed and erecting an additional “heated outdoor space.”
The HHA currently faces so many issues that the board plans to form three or four committees devoted to specific issues. Each will have at least two board members. One committee would concern Affordable Housing and Development, another Tenant Relations.
Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga (D-Hudson), whose 2nd Ward District includes Bliss, said, “You young women on the Board are role models for my children and grandchildren. You’re what the people need. I applaud you.”
The next meeting of the full HCSD Board will take place Wednesday, February 10, at 6 p.m. Committee meetings will take place every week and will be public online.