Gary Housing Authority snares $3.37M grant for upgrades
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/302-0949 August 8, 2013 5:40PM
Vacant units, despite a waiting list, are a problem for the Gary Housing Authority. Pictured is the Delaney Community Housing Center off 21st Avenue and Pierce Street. | Carole Carlson~Post-Tribune
Updated: September 10, 2013 6:30AM
GARY — The beleaguered Gary Housing Authority, beset with conditions called “totally unacceptable” by a federal official on Wednesday, had something to cheer about Thursday as the federal government handed it the biggest capital improvement grant in Indiana.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Gary Housing Authority the highest amount — $3.37 million. The Indianapolis Housing Agency, a city 10 times the size of Gary, received $2.45 million. The Housing Authority of East Chicago got $1.08 million and the Housing Authority of Hammond received $719,877.
HUD awarded nearly $21 million for large-scale improvements to public housing units in the state.
HUD spokeswoman Laura J. Feldman said the grants are made by formula based on the number of housing units and their age. Indianapolis has 217 more units than Gary, she said.
The grants, made annually by HUD, are meant for big improvements such as roofs or to replace old plumbing and electrical systems.
Just Wednesday, at a community meeting with Gary Housing Authority residents, HUD Assistant Secretary Sandra Brooks Henriquez criticized the shoddy living conditions, calling them unacceptable. It’s led to an infestation of bed bugs and mold in some of the Gary units. Residents also told stories of leaky roofs and unsanitary living conditions.
“I’ve seen a lot of conditions, but this meeting has been personally and professionally difficult for me,” Henriquez said.
Last week, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Henriquez announced that HUD would take over the management of the GHA.
Freeman-Wilson said the city-run GHA, which has seen three directors since she’s been mayor, had too many unoccupied units and that many have not been maintained. Now, HUD has appointed its own director and another official to make decisions and direct staff.
Historically, Gary mayors have been unable to get the housing authority on track.
In 2003, under Mayor Scott King, GHA entered a memorandum of agreement with HUD to improve its operations. As part of the agreement, site teams periodically visit and provide reports.
Under a HUD directive, the city hired Woodlawn Community Development Corp., a Chicago social services organization, to manage the housing authority. That arrangement ended in 2010.
In 2011, under Mayor Rudy Clay, HUD gave the GHA a score of zero on its financial management in the Public Housing Assessment System, a report card for public housing agencies nationwide.
About 3,000 people live in the city’s nine public housing centers, which include five senior high-rise centers.