HUDSON—“People are sleeping in the stairway, people are sleeping in the hallway, people are sleeping in the laundry room,” and the weather is getting colder, Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) Commissioner Robert Davis told his fellow commissioners about Bliss Tower on a video conference November 10. He lives there and HHA runs the housing.
Additional topics covered at that session included smoking, security, priorities and a proposal from the Galvan Foundation.
It was the first regular monthly meeting at which one of HHA’s new interim executive directors, Nick Zachos, participated.
The HHA Board consists of seven commissioners, two of whom live in Bliss. The Bliss income-restricted residences consist of the high rise tower and three low rises. The HHA was between executive directors from September 10 until October 26, when it picked Aiesha Davie and Mr. Zachos as interim directors.
On November 10, Mr. Davis reported seeing “people sleeping on the counter in the laundry room, at 5:30 in the morning, when I’m going to work.”
“Devastating” is how board’s Chair Revonda Smith found this news. She attributed the situation to Hudson’s housing crisis and said that Columbia County Adult Services needs to know about it.
Commissioner Rebecca Borrer observed that most of HHA’s Housing Choice Vouchers for housing outside of Bliss but in the Hudson area, are unused, because of the lack of apartments in the city with sufficiently low rents.
On another topic, William Fisher, Columbia County’s Fair Housing Officer, said he had had “numerous” dialogues with a Bliss tenant whose experience suggests that the HHA is not enforcing the indoor smoking ban it instituted in the summer of 2018, in accordance with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines. The tenant has a disability and is “very sensitive to secondhand smoke,” Mr. Fisher said, adding that the tenant has submitted many letters about this and gotten no response.
‘We’re trying to find out what’s best for the tenants.’
Revonda Smith, chair
Hudson Housing Authority
Ms. Smith thanked Mr. Fisher for “reaching out on someone else’s behalf.” Mr. Zachos reported that the situation had been brought to his attention that day.
At earlier meetings, Mr. Davis has said people were smoking tobacco and marijuana in the stairways.
During the November 10 conference Mr. Davis also inquired about getting Bliss a security and safety professional, saying that in the past month he has witnessed two troubling episodes there. Without security, he predicted someday something would happen that would get the HHA in trouble.
Ms. Smith said that when she lived in the Bliss residences it had a security guard then, and that she is not sure when it stopped employing one.
Ms. Davie has suggested that the board survey the tenants on what they want: a security officer, a resource officer, a public safety coordinator, or a combination.
“We’re trying to find out what’s best for the tenants,” Ms. Smith said.
Getting appropriate security tops the list of priorities that Mr. Zachos and Ms. Davie are developing, Mr. Zachos reported. Other top priorities include mental health and social services, pest control, HUD regulations, and finding legal counsel, he added.
HHA has had to put many important things on hold until it gets an attorney, Mr. Zachos acknowledged. But HHA’s search for a lawyer has elicited responses, and he expected it to pick one soon.
The board kept HHA’s operating budget for 2021-22 on hold until the December meeting, so that Ms. Davie and Mr. Zachos can become more familiar with it. Due to Covid, HUD has postponed the deadline for the housing authority’s budget to January 1.
Mr. Zachos reported that he and Ms. Davie have been meeting staff, residents, and board members. “It’s been a great learning experience,” Mr. Zachos said. “It’s been fun to meet the tenants.”
With executive directors, the board chose its own officers for the fiscal year. It usually does so in summer. This time it picked all its incumbents: Revonda Smith, chair; Claire Cousin, vice-chair; Marie Balle Treasurer.
In other business Dan Kent, vice president for initiatives for the Galvan Foundation, suggested that the HHA and Galvan develop a “linkage agreement” to inform HHA applicants about housing opportunities with Galvan. Under the agreement, two months before the deadline to apply for specified Galvan apartments, HHA would post information about them on its website. In addition, eligible people on HHA’s waiting list would directly receive that information, along with application materials. To facilitate this process, HHA would send Galvan its own screening requirements, demographic information, and electronic addresses. In return, Galvan would send the HHA relevant information.
Galvan is planning to build a 75-apartment building on Hudson’s North Seventh Street. Fifty-three of the seventy-five apartments are to be for people with low to moderate incomes, thirty-four of them affordable on Housing Choice vouchers.
In the near future a referral relationship with Galvan could be quite useful for HHA, Commissioner Rebecca Wolff pointed out.
The HHA decided this summer to demolish Bliss Tower and the adjacent low-rise units and redevelop its land. But its over 110 households need to be relocated first.
Also at the meeting, Ms. Cousin suggested a box in the Bliss front office, where residents can drop off celebrating-what’s-right news (including personal accomplishments of residents) and having them read out loud at the next Board meeting.