On January 27th, 2021, the Durham CAN Affordable Housing Team held an action at the monthly Durham Housing Authority (DHA) Board of Commissioners Meeting and spoke during the public comment period about our proposal with the goal of changing the current eviction policies at the DHA.
We asked that DHA: (1) change the policy on the “time of filing” to extend the court filing date to at least 90 days after the rent is due; and (2) require direct and documented communication between the property manager and resident prior to filing an eviction notice. Increasing the time before filing will allow for recently proposed eviction interventions to take place and will decrease the long-term harm for some residents as well as lower overall evictions which many elected leaders -- including our Mayor -- have repeatedly referred to publicly as “a crisis.”
Since the January Board of Commissioners meeting, the Durham CAN Affordable Housing Team has engaged with DHA leadership and staff on multiple occasions to discuss long-term eviction procedure and policy. As the AH Action team moves to close this phase of our eviction action and develop new strategies, we ask you to JOIN US on Wednesday, March 24th at 5:30 pm to affirm our two procedure/policy recommendations to prevent eviction filings in the long term and highlighting how CAN’s recommendations serve the common self-interests we share with DHA.
Please consider volunteering at Lincoln Community Health Clinic COVID Vaccine clinics in the available slots via Sign Up Genius. (new dates and times will be added in the future)
Dr. Amie Koch
DHA is proposing to issue tax-exempt, multifamily housing revenue bonds worth $9M for financing the construction of JJ Seniors, an elderly, affordable housing project with 20 out of 80 units dedicated to low income.
We have been told by both Mayor Schewel when we were asked to approve the Affordable Housing Bond and by DHA management and members of this board that redevelopment and conversion of public housing units to project based vouchers via RAD is the only option to address the maintenance and renovation needs of DHA’s entire portfolio. We hear that new revenue streams will not only provide extra dollars for maintenance, but also new programming opportunities for residents.
Yet, we are learning that redevelopment via RAD isn’t turning out to be the panacea it was portrayed to be. 1) We were told that units would have 1:1 replacements, but 3 1-bedroom units is not the same thing as 1 3-bedroom unit. 2) Despite promises that residents won’t be permanently displaced, we know people who have been. 3) We are learning of actual costs exceeding budgeted and 4) We are hearing about displacement of residents due to serious structural issues in the newly renovated units following RAD conversion.
With this being just the beginning of the redevelopment process, I ask you, how do you think it is going and are you, as members of the board, providing enough oversight, the thing you were appointed by the City to do?
The members of our community served by DHA have few options when it comes to housing. They are more likely to be affected by the harmful process of eviction. But being low income and having fewer options does not mean they deserve less dignity and respect. As members of the Board, as management of DHA, as taxpayers and community members of this city, we all have a shared responsibility for making sure that promises made are kept and the dignity and respect of each person is upheld.
Durham CAN held its first Metro Council Meeting of 2021 via Zooom on Thursday, January 21. We kicked off the meeting by welcoming our new Strategy Team co-chairs Mr. Kevin McNamee, Mr. Cullen McKenney, and Ms. Ketty Thelemaque. Long-time co-chairs Rev. Dr. Herbert Davis and Rev. Dr. Timothy Conder will serve their final year on the strategy team in 2021, and we cannot thank them enough for their years of hard work and dedication to our work.
We also met this semester's interns: Rachel Hefner, a senior at Meredith College pursuing her Bachelor's of Social Work field study requirements; TJ Bryant, a first year Master of Divinity Student at Duke Divinity School where he is in the Thriving Communities Fellowship; and Erin Light, an Architecture student at the University of Southern California with a passion for spatial justice. We are so excited to start the new year with this dedicated group at our helm.
At the meeting, we also heard updates from the Criminal Justice Reform and Affordable Housing Action Teams. The CJR team will continue its gun violence listening sessions campaign and its Covid-propelled decarceration campaign into 2021. The Affordable Housing Team will have its first major action on January 27th @5:30pm at the Durham Housing Authority (DHA) Board Meeting. Durham CAN members will speak during the public comment period about our proposal to the DHA Board of Commissioners with the goal of changing the current eviction policies at the DHA. We ask that DHA: (1) change the policy on the “time of filing” to extend the court filing date to at least 90 days after the rent is due; and (2) require direct and documented communication between the property manager and resident prior to filing an eviction notice. Increasing the time before filing will allow for recently proposed eviction interventions to take place and will decrease the long-term harm for some residents as well as lower overall evictions which many elected leaders -- including our Mayor -- have repeatedly referred to publicly as “a crisis.”
Date: Monday, January 18, 2021
To: Mr. Daniel C. Hudgins, Chairperson
Durham Housing Authority Board of Commissioners
330 E. Main St., Durham, NC 27701
Subject: Changes to DHA Eviction Filing Policies and Practices
In 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, there were 867 eviction filings by the Durham Housing Authority (DHA). Eviction filings have serious consequences for residents. Even if a judgment is not rendered against the resident, the eviction filing shows up in the individual’s public record for seven years. This documented history can have a detrimental effect on DHA’s imperative that residents “move in, move up, and move out” of public housing. Landlords, employers, and financial institutions search these public records to make decisions about whether to rent, employ, insure, and/or loan money to individuals. In addition to the complex negative impact on individuals and families, evictions are costly to DHA, taxpayers, and the City of Durham.
Date: January 4, 2021
To: Ms. Ashanti Brown, Durham Housing Authority
330 E. Main St., Durham, NC 27701
Subject: WRITTEN COMMENT - FY2021 Annual PHA Plan & 5-Year Plan
In 1998, the US Congress established the public housing agency (PHA) plan to ensure “that the PHA is accountable to the local community for choices it makes.” Our comments highlight specific recommendations that the Durham Housing Authority (DHA) should consider to increase accountability for the significant investments of tax-payer funds including:
- Publishing complete information for all prior and current RAD Conversions on the DHA website.
- Prioritizing the organization and training of a Resident Advisory Board and Resident Councils as required under federal law.
- Revising the Durham Housing Authority Downtown Neighborhood Plan (DDNP) to incorporate feedback from long-time homeowners and community members about what the plan gets wrong and is missing.
- Presenting a financial update at the next DHA Board of Commissioners meeting on how the RAD conversions of Damar Court and Morreene Road have generated funding that is being used to address maintenance issues in other DHA communities.
- Providing a briefing to the City of Durham’s Affordable Housing Bond Implementation Committee on the return of investment of City funds granted to DHA since 2017.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on these plans. In the future, please consider how your scheduling of public hearings and public comment impacts religious and cultural holiday observances. A public review and comment period that falls over during the busiest months for clergy leaders and community members prevents meaningful public participation in the process.
Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods
Date: January 5, 2020
Attn: Ms. Ashanti Brown, Durham Housing Authority
330 E. Main St., Durham, NC 27701
Subject: MTW WRITTEN COMMENT
The Moving to Work Demonstration program (MTW) is an opportunity for Public Housing Authorities (PHA) to participate in testing new policies aimed at 1) reducing the cost to the PHA of administering rent policies, 2) incentivizing families to work or prepare to work, and 3) increase housing choices for low-income families. The Durham Housing Authority (DHA) is applying to be a part of Cohort #2: Rent reform with the desire to test a Tiered Rent policy. Thus, a DHA resident in the treatment group would pay rent within an income tier and that rent would be the same until the next recertification in three years. DHA has suggested that the cost reductions of not having to recertify every year and the flexibility to use existing PHA and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) funds would allow them to fund 4 new programs: 1) resident support services 2) increase funding for Project Based Vouchers (PBV) 3) increase landlord incentives, and 4) pre-development costs. However, no new funding for such programs will be provided as part of participation in the program.
We have no comment about the merits of MTW or the expansion; however, we believe it is not the right time for the Durham Housing Authority to apply to participate in the program for the following reasons:
- We fully support an increase in resident services and increasing the number of families DHA is able to assist with more PBVs; but, with no new money being provided to the agencies chosen to participate in the program, we question where this money will come from. A large portion of DHA’s communities have been failing the Physical Assessment Subsystem (PASS) for many years. Resident inspections at Hoover Road in 2019 and the carbon monoxide crisis at McDougald Terrace in 2020 confirm the deteriorating conditions that families in these communities live in. The top priority for DHA should be ensuring that all units across all its properties are in safe and livable conditions.
- The tiered rent system as described at the end of the application would create a system in which some families end up paying more than 30% of their rent if their monthly income is less than the midpoint of the tier. A family with an income of $5,000 places them in tier 3 and a rent of $156 per month or 37% of their monthly income.
- As of January 2, 2021 DHA has 13 open positions listed on their website including the person who will manage the Jobs Plus Program that is set to launch on February 15 (according to the 2021 Annual Plan on page 17). We are concerned with DHA’s capacity to take on a new program while negotiating a recovery policy with HUD for the “Troubled Agency” designation as well as managing existing and new programs like ROSS and Jobs Plus.
- DHA has been designated a “Troubled Agency” under the Public Housing Assessment System due in large part to the PASS scores. According to the Moving to Work Operations Notice ( FR-5994-N-05), “MTW agencies will not be scored in PHAS unless and until HUD develops a MTW-specific system or successor …”. This would deny the public and its residents the one way of reviewing the overall performance of their local housing authority including the physical assessment of its units, potentially leading to a further erosion of trust within the community.
We thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on the MTW Plan and Application.
Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods
Date: October 22, 2020
To: Durham City Council
Re: Public Comments on Work Session Agenda Item #25 Approval of $15.4 Million Tax-Exempt Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds for JJ Henderson Towers
On Wednesday September 30th, Durham CAN leaders participated in a public hearing advertised on the Durham Housing Authority (DHA’s) website as an opportunity to comment on draft revisions and amendments to DHA plans and policies. Many were surprised to learn that there were actually three separate hearings being conducted, including one for DHA’s issuance of $15.4 million of tax-exempt bonds to finance the sale of JJ Henderson Towers. The Certificate and Summary submitted by DHA Board Chair, Mr. Dan Hudgins reflects one public comment. Considering that over 40 people participated in the hearing, many may not have commented on the bond items because no meeting agenda was published prior to the meeting and while a public notice was published in The Herald, the notice wasn’t published on DHA’s website.
Ms. Ladd’s comment highlights a continued and growing concern about the level of transparency the public should expect from DHA and the level of accountability that we should expect you to hold DHA to. Ms. Ladd’s comment -- specifically her request for access to the project contracts and evidence of resident input for a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) project -- were not addressed, and the information is not on the DHA website. Instead, Ms. Ladd received a 7-page FAQ about RAD. However, when CAN made the same information request to the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, within the hour we received a 76-page response that included the project’s tax credit application, bond allocation, sale terms and list of 50 attachments including market studies, term sheets, commitment letters, relocation plans, and contracts.
DHA, while a separate legal entity from the City of Durham, is the City’s largest provider of low-income housing -- a precious resource not solely because of the scarcity of the units, but because of the lives of the adults and children who call them home. You appoint the Durham Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners, who hire, fire and review the performance of the DHA CEO. You approve City funding to DHA. You approve tax-exempt bonds, and you establish and enforce a housing code to ensure that tax-payers are not subsidizing slum conditions. In addition to the concerns we raised with DHA in advance of the September 30th Public Hearing, we’ve attached questions regarding this item and additional issues of concern. We look forward to your response.
Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods
- Will there be a new public hearing for this Work Session Item? If so, what information will DHA make publicly accessible prior to the new hearing? How will the Certificate and Summary accurately reflect the response to the public comment?
- During our October 20th meeting with Mr. Anthony Scott and Ms. Ashanti Brown, we were surprised to learn that the City’s Affordable Housing Implementation Committee -- which you instituted to advise the Community Development Department on the implementation of the Affordable Housing Investment Plan -- has not weighed in on the bond funding for the sale of JJ Henderson or Oakley Square. Considering that a significant portion of City’s Affordable Housing Investment Plan is the redevelopment of DHA properties as outlined in the DHA Downtown & Neighborhood Plan (DDNP), and considering the $ 2.9 million from the City of Durham Dedicated Housing Funds awarded to DHA/DVI as a loan to the new owners of JJ Henderson Tower for development of the project, when will the Committee have an opportunity to advise you on the City’s financial investment in this sale?
- In our October 10th public comments on the conveyance of 505 W. Chapel Hill Street to West Chapel Hill Development LLC, we also expressed our deep concern and disappointment at the delays in the disposition of City-owned, vacant lots in the Hayti community and the community engagement program that you committed to create and implement in 2017 to provide meaningful opportunities for the Durham community to contribute input in connection with the redevelopment of the former site of the Fayetteville Street Projects and the surrounding area. When and how do you plan to move forward on both of these items?
- As of July 2020, DHA had over 2,000 work orders for maintenance requests. Will future funding from the City be contingent on DHA’s response to maintenance requests? Will the City’s Neighborhood Improvement Services Department continue to offer support to DHA to address inspections and repairs as it did during the December 2019 carbon monoxide crisis at McDougald Terrace?
- Page 81 of the July DHA Board of Commissioners Packet includes minutes from the June 17 2020 meeting of the Operations Committee. During that meeting, Mr. Scott outlined a strategy to use City funds that DHA received for public housing communities (like McDougald Terrace) to be counted as repayment towards a $3.5 Million debt stemming from a 2005 Office of Inspector General (OIG) Audit. Does this strategy require City Council’s approval? If the City funds are for repairs that have not been completed, can the City funds be counted toward repayment to OIG?