Friday, April 23, 2010

RRHA Monthly Board Meeting - RePHRAME speaks to the Board of Commisioners

On April 20, 2010 RePHRAME and partner organizations held a small demonstration outside while RePHRAME members and residents, Cora Hayes, Anson Bell, & Vanessa Valentine addressed the RRHA Board of Commisioner during one of their monthly meetings to resolve the following issues below:

Public Comment at 4-20-10 RRHA Board of  Commissioners Meeting

Chairman Harrigan,  Mr. Scott, and Members of the Board of Commissioners:

My name is Cora  Hayes.  I am a member of RePHRAME and today I would like to share with you our  efforts to work with RePHRAME over the last six months.

·        On September  15, 2009, RePHRAME invited RRHA to participate in a community forum on public housing redevelopment at Fay Towers.  None of the RRHA  leadership attended.
·        On September  29, RePHRAME met with CEO Anthony Scott and provided him with a copy of RePHRAME's Residents' Bill of Rights.  We asked him to review it and respond at our next meeting.
·        Our next  meeting with Mr. Scott, scheduled for October 21, was cancelled at his request because he was in Washington meeting with HUD.  This meeting was rescheduled for November 10. On November 10, Mr. Scott agreed on behalf  of RRHA to the following points in the Residents' Bill of Rights:

o   a  meaningful and enforceable resident participation process will guide all substantive decisions about redevelopment;

o   the  location of replacement units will be on the site of existing public housing units and/or in areas with additional  advantages;

o   each  displaced household will have the right to choose to return to the redeveloped site or to relocate permanently to another replacement unit; and

o   temporary  relocations will always be to replacement units, and will only be used when required by space or necessity and  will be for only as long as necessary, not to exceed 12 months. 

Mr. Scott expressed concerns about other items in the RBOR, and we agreed to revisit these  items at the next meeting.

·        On January 27, we presented Mr. Scott with a revised version of the RBOR that we felt was responsive to the concerns he expressed in the previous meeting.  Mr. Scott and RRHA's attorney offered alternative language for every item in the RBOR, including the four items already agreed to on November 10, 2009.  We asked that Mr. Scott provide these alternatives in writing,  and he agreed to do so within two weeks, i.e. by February 10. 

·        We did  not receive these proposed revisions within two weeks, and still have  not to this date.  In the meantime, RRHA requested and held a meeting with  the Richmond Tenants' Organization (RTO) on March 25 to discuss "RePHRAME's Bill of Rights."  When RRHA sent copies of RePHRAME's Bill of Rights to members of RTO, it included RRHA's proposed revisions but was presented as "RePHRAME's Bill of Rights" and RePHRAME's contact information remained on the document. 

RePHRAME's goal is  to maintain and expand housing, employment, and other opportunities for Richmond's low-income residents.  We have worked, and will continue to work, with tenant councils, the RTO, and other community partners to  achieve this goal.  We also would like to work with RRHA to achieve this goal,  but we have not been encouraged by RRHA's actions to date.  Misrepresenting RePHRAME's Bill of Rights and breaking commitments is  not the way to build trust.  We look forward to an improved relationship  with RRHA in the future, and we will continue to work hard with our fellow  residents and partners to accomplish our goals.  Thank you very much.

Cora Hayes


Chairman Harrigan,  Mr. Scott, and Members of the Board of Commissioners:

I am a member of  RePHRAME and today I would like to share RePHRAME's key priorities. 

1.     One-for-One Replacement of Public Housing – As you know, RePHRAME is committed to ensuring  that there is no net loss in public housing units in the city of Richmond.  RRHA representatives have stated publicly their intention to maintain,  or even expand, the city's 4,100 public housing units.  Why, then, has there been no clear statement letting residents know that RRHA will replace  any units demolished or disposed through redevelopment?  Moreover, why has there been no progress toward creating replacement units in the nearly 2 years  since the 60 units of Dove Court were demolished?  Since Dove Court was  supposed to be a pilot project for redevelopment in North Jackson Ward, can we  expect a similar timeline for Gilpin Court and Fay Towers?    HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan has stated that 1-for-1 replacement is critical  to make up for the thousands of public housing units that have been demolished  or otherwise lost over the last 15 years.   HUD is committed to not losing any more units of public housing.  Shouldn't RRHA be committed to this goal as well?  If so, we'd like to hear concrete details about how, where, and when replacement units will be built in  North Jackson Ward, Dove Court, and elsewhere. 

2.     Effective Implementation of the Section 3 Program for Public Housing Residents – Section 3  of the HUD Act of 1968 calls for any HUD-assisted housing or community development project to include economic opportunities for public housing residents and other low- and very low-income residents.  Since 1968 we have seen a widespread failure to implement and enforce Section 3.   Given that economic opportunities are the key to ending the cycle of poverty,  we ask RRHA to establish outcome-based, enforceable requirements for the implementation of Section 3 to ensure that public housing residents get  these jobs and contracting opportunities.

3.     Local Payment of Rent for Public Housing Residents – RRHA requires nearly every public housing resident to mail rent payments to a bank in Baltimore, Maryland.  The vast majority of housing authorities across the country allow residents to pay rent locally, either at the housing authority  office or at a local bank.  Due to the recent blizzard on the East Coast and resulting delays in mail delivery, hundreds of public housing residents  in Richmond received late payment notices and charges through no fault of  their own.  Even under normal circumstances, mailing rent payments means additional costs for residents and creates unnecessary hardship.  We ask that RRHA work with RePHRAME to create a streamlined rent payment  process for RRHA residents.

4.     Enforced Timelines and Deadlines for Public Housing Construction and Redevelopment – RRHA has consistently failed to abide by timelines for public housing  construction and redevelopment.  Dove Court has been demolished for nearly 2 years  with no clear plans for construction.  Blackwell was torn down 11 years ago, and no replacement public housing units have been built to this day.  These delays mean that residents who have been displaced by  redevelopment effectively have no opportunity to return to their communities.   We ask you to commit to timely replacement of any public housing units lost through redevelopment, and to allow any resident who so chooses to return to a replacement unit in their original community.  Redevelopment should not  be a way for RRHA to remove people from public housing who satisfy the  criteria for recertification.

Thank you.

Vanessa Valentine  and Anson Bell


Silver Persinger from the Richmond City Council Reporter and Telegraph recorded video for RePHRAME in three parts.

Part 1 -  RePHRAME comments
Part 2 - RRHA address some of RePHRAME's grievances.
Part 3 - They dicussed RePHRAME Demands

Part 1/3 - RRHA Board Meeting - April 20, 2010 - Public Information Period from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

Part 2/3 - RRHA Board Meeting - April 20, 2010 - Reports and Resolutions from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

Part 3/3 - RRHA Board Meeting - April 20, 2010 - Workshop on Mixed Finance Development - Privatization of Public Housing from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

Press Releases & Coverage:
Richmond Free Press
Comments: Cora Hayes
Comments: Vanessa Valentine & Ansen Bell
Media Advisory -- Press Release