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Housing Authority requests $283,040 from HUD for upgrades

Residents of the Sunnyside Housing Authority could have a lot of updating to look forward to if the local organization receives all of the funding it is requesting from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the 2005 funding cycle.

Keitha Robertson with the Sunnyside Housing Authority noted that according to the organization's five-year plan, it is requesting $283,040 for capital improvements for fiscal year 2005. She explained that the funding would be used to update wiring in the residential units, as well as to replace the flooring and window treatments in the community building. Other plans include completing an expansion of the Housing Authority's maintenance shop, and replacing some front door locks. She added that the funds would also help pay for the replacement of the furnishings in the community building. Those repairs and updates alone are estimated to cost $156,050.

The funds being requested from HUD will also be used to make some significant changes to the Housing Authority's residential units. The improvements include replacing electrical outlets, switches and bathroom fans, improving ventilation to help prevent mold from developing, and repainting the interior of the units.

Robertson said the funding will also be used for the installation of a surveillance system, which would help monitor the parking areas associated with the Housing Authority campus.

The final item the funds would help make possible is the purchase of a backhoe tractor and front bucket. Robertson explained that the Housing Authority has had to rent a backhoe on more than one occasion.

"We were thinking we would be money ahead to just purchase a backhoe," Robertson said.

Despite requesting the $283,040 from HUD and allotting it to different projects, Robertson said the Sunnyside Housing Authority will have to wait and see just how much of the funding it will actually receive from the federal government. She explained that decisions on how much each of the housing authorities are allotted typically take place near the end of the fiscal year.

Since the Housing Authority is working on its five-year plan, Robertson looked ahead to some of the capital improvements they are hoping to have funded in the coming years. In 2006, the largest of the projects is the replacement of 56 screen walls, which is estimated to cost $81,905. In 2007, the largest project is the replacement of interior light fixtures at an estimated cost of $47,040. In 2008, the largest project is landscaping the planter areas around the units at an estimated cost of $46,450. In the fifth year of the plan, 2009, one of the larger projects is painting the exterior of the buildings at an estimated cost of $117,000.

Robertson explained that when creating a five-year plan it is important to try to keep things on schedule as far as replacement and updating goes. For example, she pointed out that it's important to remember that parking lots have to be overlaid and re-striped every so often, a project that is included in the 2006 timeline of capital projects.

"We're basically trying to replace things when they need to be replaced," Robertson said.

The Sunnyside Housing Authority's five-year plan also includes information about the operations of the local organization. According to the plan, the local Housing Authority currently has a waiting list that is 153 families long. Robertson noted that of those families on the waiting list, 38 of them make only 30 percent of the average media income.

When it comes to placing those families in units as they come available, Robertson said the five-year plan includes a few changes. She noted that in the past HUD had made it a requirement for all housing authorities to use a certain set of preferences to decide which family will be placed in a unit first. She said these preferences included everything from a family who was living in substandard housing to victims of domestic violence.

Robertson explained that over the years these preferences made it difficult for families who didn't qualify to be accomodated, but were in dire need of affordable housing to be admitted into a local unit.

Robertson said this will be the first year that the Sunnyside Housing Authority is planning to drop all of the federal preferences, which are no longer required, and only give preference to veterans and their families.

Another change listed in the five-year plan deals with the minimum amount of rent required for those living in the Housing Authority units. This year the minimum rent will fall to $0. Robertson explained that traditionally rent is 30 percent of a family's adjusted income, but sometimes that can, with the cost of utilities, end up being zero. She said in the past the minimum rent paid for Sunnyside Housing Authority units was $50, but new federal regulations have made it difficult to enforce that minimum. Instead, the Housing Authority has decided to try to lower the minimum rent to $0.

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