Guest column: Here’s a tool to revitalize public housing
August 17, 2016, Capital Gazette
The Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis is, by all accounts, struggling. The role of providing housing of last resort to some of the lowest-income residents of our community is not an easy one. The privatization of HACA’s stock of 790 units is likely the best way to preserve housing affordability at that level and enhance the life opportunities for the residents. Unfortunately there exists in our community a deep-seated fear of such privatization.
Public housing in Annapolis and across the nation is in deep need of capital investment. Public estimates of the backlog of capital improvement projects in the nation’s public housing run between $35 billion and $45 billion. The annual component of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development budget dedicated toward such capital improvements needs is barely over $1 billion.
The message from Congress, which approves HUD’s annual budget, is clear: Using private financial tools to revitalize or replace public housing in need of capital investment is the only way to “catch up.”
This capital needs backlog is not new, but it is growing. Over the years HUD has deployed several programs aimed at meeting the capital needs of our public housing stock. These include the recently closed out HOPE VI program, which revitalized hundreds of communities and tens of thousands of public housing units. Currently, the Rental Assistance Demonstration program at HUD is aimed at the same problem.