Bliss ready to upgrade, but contractors scarce

HUDSON—Apartment upgrades, builder shortages, roaches and Zoom problems received attention at the Hudson Housing Authority meeting May 12. The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) runs the income-restricted 135-unit Bliss housing complex in Hudson, which consists of the high-rise Bliss Tower and three low rise buildings.

The HHA Board of Commissioners approved an agreement to get about 50 new refrigerators for apartments via the Clean Energy Communities Program. Each new refrigerator will consume less electricity than the one it replaces. In addition, the roach-attracting odor from the replaced aging refrigerators will go away. However, “There’s a national shortage of refrigerators,” reported Commissioner Marie Balle. She has spoken with Lowe’s about this.

HHA Executive Director Tim Mattice reported that several recently-empty apartments have been leased, but 20 apartments remain offline, kept empty pending rehabilitation. Fourteen are in Bliss Tower and six are in the low rises. One issue is finding qualified builders to renovate apartments. Another is future plans versus current needs.

“There are so many amazing local businesses that are doing construction work, but they’re all so busy,” observed Commissioner Rebecca Borrer.

“To find contractors in Hudson is a challenge,” added Mr. Mattice. They have to be scheduled “months in advance.”

Because the rehabilitation requires asbestos removal, the construction workers must set up separate sealed chambers and carry extra liability insurance. This increases time and costs. There would be less a problem, “if we were doing the whole building rather than just 14 units. They don’t like small jobs,” Mr. Mattice said.

Ms. Borrer suggested training. With more people qualified to join work crews, more contractors would be able to take on HHA construction, even when involved in other projects.

Mr. Mattice and board Vice-Chair Claire Cousin mentioned approaching Columbia Greene Community College about implementing a course in construction technology.

Still, Mr. Mattice asked, “How much do we want to pay for 14 units?” when HHA plans to redevelop the whole complex.

On the other hand, many of the offline apartments have at least three bedrooms, and Hudson has a severe affordable-housing shortage. “I feel like having the three-bedroom units just sitting there is dangerous, Ms. Cousin said. She suggested reconsidering the decision to hold off rehabilitating the offline low-rise apartments until a major rebuild. Some of them have four or five bedrooms.

“One need in Hudson is to have apartments with more bedrooms,” Ms. Borrer said.

‘To find contractors in Hudson is a challenge.’

Tim Mattice, exec. director

Hudson Housing Authority

HHA tenants took a survey on what kind of future they want for the Bliss complex, and results would be announced soon, said board Chair Revonda Smith.

On another matter, several Bliss residents complained about roaches. “They’re coming out of electrical outlets. It’s worse in warm weather. They’ve been here since I’ve been here,” said a resident who has lived there about nine years.

Another resident observed that the problem seemed worse in corner apartments.

“Ms. Cousin explained that the building’s siding retains water, which attracts roaches.

Another factor, said Mr. Mattice, are Bliss’ interior garbage chutes. “We can clean the chutes, but we must store garbage inside, because there’s nowhere else to store it.”

People leaving food and water out all day for pets also contributes to the situation, Mr. Mattice added.

To combat roaches, he said, “We have the exterminator every week. We tried to do our best. We do a comprehensive approach,” changing methods frequently, as a next generation of roaches develops immunity to the current methods. In addition, the new refrigerators should help.

Meanwhile, “We’ve been flooded with new applicants,” Mr. Mattice announced. “We have a tremendous influx of people coming from NY City with their vouchers. This makes less housing available for other people.” The Board agreed to keep the waiting list for HHA apartments open only to Columbia County residents for a month.

The meeting accommodated both in-person and remote participation, but initially some Zoom participants could not hear everything. Commissioners frequently interrupted the beginning of the meeting to unplug, replug, and reposition computers and cell phones. When they finally got a satisfactory arrangement, to make up for what remote viewers may have missed, they repeated the first part of the meeting.

Also at the meeting:

* Ms. Cousin mentioned forming a tenants association unconnected to the HHA board

* Ms. Balle officially took over the position of treasurer from Commissioner Rebecca Wolff

* Mr. Mattice reported, “We’re pretty solvent with our budget for the next several years.”

The next meeting of the full HHA Board will take place Wednesday, June 9, at 6 p.m. in the Bliss Tower community room.

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