A public housing complex for seniors in the Old West End will get $4 million to $5 million in upgrades as part of a national program that officials say aims to preserve affordable housing by attracting private investment.
The 136-unit Parqwood Apartments complex, a building for low-income seniors at 2125 Parkwood Ave., will get modernized units and common areas, as well as energy-efficiency upgrades. Parqwood was built in the 1940s.
The Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority is one of only two housing authorities in Ohio to be included in a new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program known as Rental Assistance Demonstration. The federal program allows authorities to raise funds for needed public housing repairs by essentially reclassifying public housing as privately owned Section 8 housing, permitting private investors to put up funds for redevelopment.
Without the program, the renovations wouldn’t happen, LMHA Deputy Director Ivory Mathews said.
“We have a long list of capital needs that we aren’t receiving enough funds from HUD to address,” Ms. Mathews said.
The announcement Thursday was part of a nationwide rollout of the program HUD officials tout as a 21st-century way to preserve public housing. HUD says nationally, public housing has an approximate $26 billion backlog of needed repairs and upgrades — and the agency gets only about $2 billion annually for capital repairs; thus spurring the change to allow housing authorities to raise funds for such a purpose.
“This is very significant,” said Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, a national nonprofit in Washington. “It is rethinking the 70-year-old public housing program. It is bringing it more in sync with how we operate other types of housing and real estate.”
“Government can do smart things at a time with limited resources,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, speaking on a conference call with reporters Thursday to announce the program.
The only other housing authority in Ohio to be included in the program at this point is Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Like many public housing authorities, LMHA has trimmed the public housing units it owns in recent years. In April, board members voted to ask HUD for approval to sell 100 units at scattered sites, mostly within Toledo’s central city. Last year, the agency finished tearing down 400 units at the Albertus Brown Homes and adjacent Brand Whitlock Homes in central Toledo. They will be replaced by Collingwood Green, which will have only 136 units of public housing.
As part of the program, Parqwood Apartments will be owned not by the housing authority, but by a separate limited liability corporation in which the housing authority is a partner.
Tenants at Parqwood will not be displaced, Ms. Mathews said. Resident meetings will be held to discuss building needs and other design plans; otherwise, tenants should not be affected, she said.
The wider effects of the program in general on public housing residents remain to be seen.
Matthew Currie, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, which advocates on behalf of housing authority residents, said he is hopeful tenants will still have all the same rights they are afforded as public housing residents.
“It’s new,” said Susan Popkin, a senior fellow, who studies housing issues at the Urban Institute. “HUD is figuring it out and everyone who is watching is figuring it out.”
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