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?