Sarasota Housing Authority Resident's Association

Saturday, March 04, 2006

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


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