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Housing issues prominent in city manager's 'stretch' goals
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Housing issues prominent in city manager's 'stretch' goals

Maurice Jones

Maurice Jones

City Manager Maurice Jones hopes to improve communication between the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Public Housing Association of Residents, sure up public housing maintenance and jumpstart the stalled redevelopment of the city’s aging housing stock by next year.

In a memo submitted to the City Council, Jones outlined these goals as his “stretch objective” for fiscal year 2013-14. If Jones meets the goals, his contract stipulates, he is eligible for a $17,000 bonus on his $173,400 salary.

The council will determine at the end of the fiscal year whether Jones met the goals.

Jones said years of problems with the authority, capped in February by a scathing 41-page report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, pushed him to act.

“[The authority] has struggled for years with systemic issues that have now driven it to a crossroads,” he said in an email to The Progress. “Those issues range from facilities maintenance to federal budget cuts to resident relations.”

A resolution approving the goals is on the consent agenda for Tuesday night's council meeting. The council extended Jones’ contract and added the bonus clause in April, seven months before its original expiration date.

Previous City Manager Gary O’Connell’s contract contained a similar clause, city officials said.

In a memo to the council, Jones said he will provide a report on the current state of the housing authority in October, before embarking on a plan to strengthen relations between the authority and the residents of its properties, make sure the authority has a plan in place to keep up with maintenance, and put the redevelopment process back in motion.

Jones said he also hopes to get the authority back into compliance with HUD regulations.

“I have already had several fruitful meetings with our staff, residents of public housing, the authority’s current administration and others in the community to hear their concerns and suggestions for improvement and to determine the full extent of what this review will entail,” Jones said in the memo.

The HUD report found financial problems, failures to collect rent, inadequate budget controls and poor staff training in the housing authority.

HUD expects the authority to be back in compliance next year, said Constance Dunn, the authority’s director.

Since the report came out, authority officials and HUD have tried to organize training sessions for authority board members but to no avail, Dunn said.

Meetings with the city so far have been encouraging, she said.

“We are definitely looking at ways the city and the housing authority can collaborate and share resources, and that can mean a lot of things,” she said. “We could touch on maintenance, buildings and grounds, procurement and support. Redevelopment is an important piece for all of us, because the housing authority’s funding is going down each year.”

Brandon Collins, a spokesman for the Public Housing Association of Residents, said he is excited to see the city take a role in improving the housing authority.

“We asked for something like this to happen. We have a lot faith in people with the city. We have a little more trust in people in the city, because their engagement is a little bit better, certainly, than the housing authority,” said Collins, who has been an outspoken critic of the authority. “We felt it was important to go to the city and ask for not just political support, but meaningful administrative oversight, and it looks like we’re heading in that direction, which is awesome.”

Councilors said they are happy Jones is taking an interest in the authority, but said some of his goals will be hard to measure, and the work will not be easy.

“I think some goals by nature are going to be more subjective and less measurable, but how we make sure those have been achieved will be based on feedback we get from the Public Housing Association of Residents and the CRHA,” Councilor Dave Norris said. “What we are looking for is positive signs that it is getting better, and concrete signs that show improvement in the redevelopment.”

The council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

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