By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
The New Albany Public Housing Authority should seek city involvement before moving ahead with a rebuild of one of the largest continuous public housing sites in Indiana, Mayor Jeff Gahan said Friday.
The 512 units and more than 50 buildings that comprise Broadmeade Terrace, Parkview Towers and Parkview Terrace have been eyed by the NAHA for reconfiguration for a few years.
In 2011, the NAHA was denied a $250,000 federal planning grant to revamp the public housing area near Bono Road. Undeterred, the NAHA is still seeking to implement an improvement project that was originally estimated to cost $60 million.
The NAHA is considering a phased process for the rebuild which could begin in 2014.
Gahan said his administration has been briefed on the NAHA’s plans by the organization’s executive director, Bob Lane, and some of his staff members. The administration expressed concerns that the project is a redevelopment effort and should include city staff and the New Albany Redevelopment Commission when it comes to planning, Gahan said.
He added he’s convinced public housing in New Albany can be safer with improved living conditions for residents if the concentration of units is reduced.
“It is important to me that we plan and work together on this project so that we are all happy with the outcome,” Gahan said.
“In the past, the Housing Authority has acted independently from local government’s planning operations. This project is too big and the consequences are too great to proceed without fully discussing all available options.”
The NAHA is a federally managed body, and its leadership answers to its own board of directors, not directly to the mayor.
Reaction from NAHA
In a statement released Friday, Lane was somewhat vague on exact details of any partnership with the city, but he didn’t rule out a group effort either.
“We at NAHA look forward to continuing our work with Mayor Gahan and his staff as we improve the housing of low income people in New Albany,” Lane said in the statement.
As of Dec. 1, all but two NAHA homes were rented, and the local organization has a more than 99 percent occupancy rate over the last several years, he continued.
Typically, residents live in a NAHA facility for less than four years, Lane said.
“The former NAHA residents who have purchased homes have a zero home default rate,” Lane said, as he added there are 160 families on the Housing Authority’s waiting list.
Less than 7 percent of the NAHA’s residents are on welfare, and more than 45 percent of those living there are less than 18 years old, according to Lane.
The NAHA continues to be a “high-performer” in public and Section 8 housing as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, Lane continued.
He didn’t directly address Gahan’s call for reducing the concentration of public housing units in the Broadmeade area.
“We know what public housing in New Albany has looked and felt like for the last 40 years,” Gahan said. “Now is the time to make the right adjustments in placement and design, and then build in a manner that is beneficial to all residents.”
Earlier this year, Gahan announced his administration would form a housing strategy that would examine the entire gamut of living quarters in New Albany.
Carl Malysz, director of community housing initiatives for the city, is one of the administration members working on the strategy.
“We’re looking at how do we stimulate good housing development and redevelopment, particularly in the central city,” Malysz said.
Decades ago, many inner-city neighborhoods were a melting pot of socio-economic classes, Malysz said. But over the years, those same neighborhoods became more populated with lower-income residents, he continued.
Malysz said he’s a supporter of social programs that benefit the needy, but that having a disproportionate amount of low-income housing concentrated in one area can be a detraction to potential investors.
“If we are going to have a positive influence on housing in the central city, then there are certain principles we have to employ to accomplish a positive outcome,” Malysz said.
One of the key components for New Albany’s inner-city is to ensure there’s balance in the housing stock, he continued.
“We don’t want concentrations of poverty, we don’t want a particular neighborhood to be all rental, or all lower income,” Malysz said.
When it comes to public housing, he pointed to redevelopments in Louisville that were accomplished through the federal HOPE VI program. Though now defunct, HOPE VI provided funding for public housing projects such as Park DuValle in Louisville, which Malysz said is a great example of blending income levels to create a more diverse community.
Though not a public housing effort, Malysz said the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in New Albany has been effective in introducing a variety of socio-economic levels into the Midtown neighborhood.
Lower income families can qualify for the NSP program as well as people earning as much as 120 percent of the Area Median Income, Malysz said.
Instead of lumping people into a concentrated area based on their earnings, the NSP program helps provide a continuum of housing which is what the city wants for its inner-city neighborhoods, Malysz said.
The NAHA should incorporate a similar strategy and partner with the city on its plan to rebuild some of its properties, Malysz said, as he added it’s a noble goal for the Housing Authority to want to improve its facilities.
“I think it would be an error for the Housing Authority to redevelop its assets in a bubble,” he said.
SO YOU KNOW
• The New Albany Housing Authority receives funding from two sources: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and from rent paid each month by public housing residents.