Sarasota Housing Authority Resident's Association

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Housing Authority Meets With Residents and Community About Redevelopment Plans

During the past two weeks the Housing Authority has held public meetings with the public housing residents and with the Newtown community so that the status of the redevelopment plans could be presented and questions could be answered.

At last weeks community meeting, Commissioner Fredd Atkins, Housing Authority Reciever Carmen Valenti, Housing Director Bill Russell, Public Housing Resident Association President Valerie Buchand and Redevelopment Consultant David Gilmore all spoke of the process, the issues, the plan and the need for community input.

Commissioner Atkins said forceably that change will happen, either participate or watch it. But it will happen. Housing Director Russell indicated that he felt the Housing Authority properties have had a negative affect on the Newtown community, he wants to change this so these properties will be a positive factor in the community.

The SHT article about this meeting covered the comments and questions brought up by community residents: how will the relocation work? What kind of density is needed? Will the drainage problem be fixed?

The Housing Authority indicated that all these issues are being addressed and that public input is needed to understand the issues and to help find answers.

Basically, the Housing Authority is looking at replacing the current 388 low income rental units with approximately 850 units that would be a mix of low income rentals, subsidized rental and ownership and market rate rental and ownership units. Currently a concept plan is being refined so that a realistic proposal can be solicited from potential developers.

Density, parking requirements, storm water retention and open space are all issues that are being refined. Financing of the project will not be easy, but there is confidence that it will happen. It is hoped that the process for finding a capable developer can begin in about two months.

The preliminary "guestimate" is that the first phase of demolition could start late in 2007. This would require some relocation to occur in mid 2007. Many significant steps in the process need to happen before a realistic timetable can be projected.

Janie Poe's Son Visits Sarasota

"Dr. Cupid Poe, son of the late teacher for whom the Janie Poe public housing complex is named, saw its blight for himself Saturday morning.

"Mama would be sad and disappointed," said the Nashville psychiatrist and minister, who left Sarasota for college in 1956 and has visited his hometown infrequently in recent years. "I feel sad, too, that it hasn't gotten more attention."

Poe, 66, returned to his roots, Sarasota's predominantly black Newtown neighborhood, this weekend to attend a reunion of current and past residents of public housing. Although he never lived in the projects, he remembers firsthand the hardscrabble life in Newtown.

Even though segregation may have officially ended long ago, the Sarasota he saw during the reunion's bus tour struck him as a community that's becoming socio-economically divided again."

The Public Housing Reunion held this weekend was covered well by Dale White of the Sarasota Herald Tribune. The excerpt above is form his article about the impressions of a man that grew up in Newtown and returned to see how life has changed here.

What he saw was not particularly pleasing.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Public Housing Reunion Event

The Resident's Association is having a Public Housing Reunion this weekend in Sarasota. Following is from a letter by Valerie Buchand, President of the Resident's Association.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, We would like to invite you to a Public Housing Reunion.

People will be coming from around the country, people who once lived in public housing. Many public housing residents have gone on in life accomplishing their goals and following their dreams. We are asking them to come to the reunion to share their lives and provide encouragement and inspiration to current public housing residents and supportive City residents.

Guest speaker will be the Reverend Cupid Poe, the son of Mrs. Janie Poe, activist and Sarasota school teacher.

To attend any or all events, please register by calling the office (366-6100) and leave a message or for more information, call Valerie at 544-3262.

Schedule of Events

Friday evening from 6 to 6:45 pm, registration at the Newtown Redevelopment Office at 1782 MLK Jr. Way.

Friday evening at 7 pm, Concert at the Westcoast Center, 403 N. Washington Blvd.

Saturday 9:30 am Tour of Sarasota, meet at Newtown Redevelopment Office, 1782 MLK Jr. Way

Saturday noon, Lunch at Saxes Jazz Club, 55 S. Palm Avenue (artwork by public housing children)

Saturday evening, 7 pm, Praise and Worship Service, 2800 Newtown Boulevard.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Community Meeting - Redeveloment Plans

The Housing Authority of The City of Sarasota and The City of Sarasota Newtown Redevelopment Office will be holding a "COMMUNITY MEETING" to present the proposed initial "REDEVELOPMENT PLANS" for the Housing Authority public housing properties located in Sarasota, including Bertha Mitchell, The Courts, Janie Poe and Orange Ave.

This meeting will be held on Thursday, March 9, 2006, 6:30 PM at Booker High School Cafeteria located at 3201 N. Orange Avenue. If you have any questions, please feel free to call (941) 373-7764.

Notes From Monthly Housing Authority Meeting

Notes from the Sarasota Housing Authority Meeting held Wednesday, February 22, 2006 at 5 pm, McCown Towers.

At the table, Carmen Valenti (HUD), Bill Russell (Director, Sarasota Housing Authority), Lawyer Gilmore, Valerie Buchand (resident representative).

Karen Curry was introduced as the Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency person. She has been going around to every public housing household and discussing relocation. Residents will receive Section 8 vouchers and shop around the area for modest rental apartments. She is informing residents of the expected timeline for demolition and making them aware of their rights. She plans to contact all 388 households before the Tuesday, Feb 28 meeting at 6:30 pm at the Boys and Girls Club, 1790 21st Street. At this meeting the Housing Authority will talk to the residents about relocation, development plans at the present, parameters for redevelopment which include grappling with issues like number of parking places, sizes of units. This will be the first resident meeting. Mr. Valenti thanked Ms. Buchand for her steady involvement and contributions. She acknowledged the process is a good one and is a challenge. They both declare their major focus is coming to the best solutions for the residents. There will be a meeting with Newtown neighbors on March 9.

**All are invited to a public meeting, March 7 at 5 pm at McCown Towers. This will be the annual planning meeting for the Housing Authority.**

Brian Clark has been recently hired and will fill two positions, one as property manager for Janie Poe and the other as head of the capital fund program.

Carmen Valenti provided Jude Levy with a list of the 700 locations that have accepted Section 8 Vouchers (approximately 250 of these locations are in Manatee County). This was in response to Ms. Levy's concern that the landlords and units aren't out there to accept 388 new relocation vouchers. Mr. Valenti also forwarded a website on tax increment funding for developers to provide affordable housing. If you want the link, you can contact Jude at

The Sarasota Housing Authority has made a decision to raise the Section 8 voucher levels. $625 for a studio, up from $498; $685 for a one bedroom, up from $595; $824 for a two bedroom, up from $757; $1,052 for three bedrooms, up from $974; $1,156 for four bedrooms, up from $1,059. Public Housing residents will contribute, usually, 30% of their income when their voucher is calculated. Landlords in the program haven't seen an increase in three years and landlords costs have gone up steeply due to high property taxes and insurance costs. Mr. Valenti said "we want our vouchers to work in the marketplace and we do not want to increase rental rates by inflating prices either." There is a "Rent Reasonableness Survey" to keep prices from inflating. Each unit accepted into the voucher program is subject to the RR.

Mr. Russell described an FSS Acount which is a family self sufficiency program, a five year plan. As a resident's income increases, the difference between rent and the increase is put into an escrow account At the end of the five years, the head of household can take the money and go out and get a market rate unit, having money for a down payment, for instance. When families leave the program they forfeit the money. This money will be used for current apartment subsidies.

Dr. Marion Goldberg is offering a parent program for residents. Those hours may be used for the FSS program and/or to meet required volunteer community hours for those who do not work. Flyers on the program will be given out at Tuesday's meeting.

Earlier that morning, Mr. Valenti, Mr. Russell, Ms. Buchand and Mr. Clapp took a tour of six tax increment projects in the area (from Bradenton to St. Pete), most have two to three story buildings. Mr. Valenti was impressed by the tidiness of the properties and acknowledged that the level of pride has to do with the condition of the living units. "When decent housing is provided, folks respect their homes; it is time to replicate that level of respect here." As for trust in the Housing Authority, the "proof is in our acts".

New resident policies were also discussed for litter eradication, admissions, administration plan for Section 8 (rules for staying in good standing, who qualifies, waiting list, etc.) It was announced that Cohen Way residents in good standing as of July will be given preference in receiving a Section 8 vouchers.
Ms. Buchand asked that every resident receive a copy of the new litter policy. Posting in key locations isn't enough, she felt, and won't reach all residents.

Mr. Valenti explained his position on the Cohen Way property: Those public housing residents lived in deplorable conditions, the Housing Authority was between a "rock and a hard place." It couldn't afford to repair the buildings. "We knew the buildings would have to be torn down," he said. At that time we had no vouchers. Relocation was the only solution. And now we will offer vouchers to those residents first. Now that Habitat for Humanity has purchased the property, they will build housing units for under $100,000 (in the $90 to 95,000 range). The Rosemary Condos are in the $88 to 98,000 range. Close out documents for the last phase of the Rosemary Condos should be completed soon.

Ms. Buchand reported that the grassroots leadership class is going well. A mentor has been assigned to her and will be with her for the next 18 months. She acknowledged that getting resident involvement in the redevelopment iprocess s a challenge but she feels more individuals are showing interest lately. She announced the public housing reunion to be held on March 10 and 11. All are invited - anyone who has ever lived in public housing, anywhere in the United Stated at any time. A number of officials have agreed to be involved. Buchand believes this "will be a blessing for everyone." For more details, call her at 544-3262.

Jude Levy