PITTSFIELD - Federal funding, parking space, a smoke-free policy, security issues and tenants who get behind in their rents are prominent topics in an annual report to the Pittsfield Housing Authority from Executive Director Charles L. Smith Jr.
The authority, which manages 765 housing units in nine large developments and several smaller facilities and oversees 580 federal rent subsidy vouchers for privately owned units, remains "not only sound but vibrant as we go forth into the next fiscal year," Smith wrote. "We continue to meet the challenges of [federal budget] "sequestration" and reduction of funding by adhering to fiscal restraint, exercising due diligence and by showing up to do the hard work."
Smith reported that PHA staff members managed exceptional administration of the housing programs, which " contributed to an improved financial condition and project financial strength."
For the fiscal year ending June 30, accountant Richard S. Fenton said in an Aug. 20, letter to PHA commissioners - included with Smith's report - that all of the various PHA programs came in under budget.
The accountant also said PHA income was down in part because of federal funding cutbacks for rent subsidies and other programs, and that the situation on the federal level - where President Obama and Republicans in Congress have been at odds over spending - could have additional financial impacts.
Smith said a smoke-free policy for all PHA managed housing units will be instituted with the next round of one-year lease agreements for tenants, beginning in September. Information on the new policy, signage and educational efforts for those who wish to quit smoking will be part of the process, he said, as will consideration of smoking areas outside housing complexes, where feasible.
A shortage of auto parking space at some buildings also is being addressed, Smith said. The problem stems in part from an era when most tenants were older and fewer drove, unlike today. Additional spaces will be sought, he said, and such alternatives as taxi vouchers might be considered to make it less likely residents will maintain vehicles.
Smith said a policy change will condense the amount of time the PHA will wait before moving to evict a tenant behind in their rent - a change instituted to avoid operating losses in a time when funding is tight.
Tenants who are two or more months behind in rent, and haven't made an effort to agree on a payment plan, will receive eviction notices. If they agree to a payment plan, that will be monitored until the rent is caught up.
However, Smith said, " we were finding we were making agreements every three or four months" for some tenants. The policy now, he said, will be to end a lease if that process is repeated two or more times in a year.
Smith also noted security upgrades for PHA housing, including creation of two community centers for residents to meet with police personnel to discuss issues or receive information, and with representatives from service organizations. And new lighting, security cameras, locks and fencing were installed to enhance security.
The report also cites a number large rehabilitation projects begun or completed, including phase one of a major project at Wilson Park, costing $2.8 million; utility room modifications at Jubilee Apartments, $ 251,607, and roof replacements at Rose Manor and Wahconah Heights, $168,000.
Ongoing projects include phase two of the Wilson Park work, project to total $7 million to $8 million and front and rear door upgrades at Columbia Arms, $55,000.
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