Moon – Huntsville Housing Authority Status Report

Huntsville City Councilwoman Sandra Moon sent out the following email to her constituents:

April 20, 2009

I apologize to those of you who have phoned and sent me emails.  I have simply been overwhelmed beyond any ability to respond individually.

First, it is clear that the Huntsville Housing Authority (HHA) Board members are not going to resign and to continue to call for their resignation will be counter-productive.  Instead, I have been communicating with one of those Board members.  We have established a “relationship” of truth and, I believe, trust.  I choose these words carefully.  He assured me on April 14th the HHA Board has had absolutely NO discussion (and certainly no decisions) about purchasing any more apartment complexes in south Huntsville .  I believe him.  This was confirmed at the April 16th City Council meeting by Mr. Lundy when I asked him specifically if any more apartment purchases were in the plans.

This HHA Board member is very, very concerned by the divisive controversy erupting over the Stone Manor purchase.  The fact the HHA Board has not had any discussion about future purchases does not address the issues associated with Stone Manor.  He and I will continue to communicate on that issue, and we have pledged our best efforts towards seeking some kind of remedy, if possible.

I never felt that I got clear answers when I asked Mr. Lundy about the language used in their 1 and/or 5-year HUD planning documents.  Mark Russell asked him directly why they referenced “Southeast Huntsville” several times instead of Huntsville in the HUD plans.  Again, I never felt we got satisfactory answers.  I have been contacted by several of the Stone Manor residents who are in complete limbo about their futures.  I asked Mr. Lundy to communicate immediately with those residents.  He said he would and that they really wanted to work with the residents in everyway possible.  I will continue to monitor the situation.  Other than Mr. Lundy’s assurances they were not planning to buy any more apartment complexes in south Huntsville , I was not reassured by his answers to most of the questions I asked him.  I did feel, however, a lesson had been learned about submitting HUD plans which single out one section of Huntsville .

As many of you probably know, I got pounded by the Huntsville Times editorial board on April 12th.  That is O.K., it goes with the territory.  I was bemused by their stand when I read their front page story on the negative and mixed results of various public housing programs across the country.  I am not sure they read their own story.  In my rebuttal letter to the Times, I have challenged the HHA Board to do their research and find communities similar to Huntsville who have successful public housing programs.  HHA Board members and other community leaders need to visit these communities with workable programs that are positive for all members of their communities.  Among the questions we need to be asking are: how were the programs initiated, implemented, and managed.  It will be just as telling if there are no such successful programs.

Many of you have asked about the impact on our schools.  That is an area in which I have little expertise.  Dr. Jennie Robinson (District 3 school board member) and I have been in frequent contact, and she is researching the various issues connected to dispersed and clustered public housing.  I will defer to her on school issues.

Many of you have also asked about another public meeting, especially for those in the Weatherly area.  There are two PTA meetings to which Jennie Robinson and I have been invited, but I am not aware of any other meeting/meetings scheduled.  Jennie and I have talked about calling a public meeting, but nothing has been formalized yet.  I will keep you posted.

I applaud Representative Mike Ball and Senator Arthur Orr for sponsoring legislation curbing the Housing Authority’s powers.  Their bill, essentially, calls for three things.  It removes the power of eminent domain for Public Housing Authorities under state law; it requires approval of the local governing body prior to purchasing property; and it requires notice be given to each property owner within 500 yards of the property to be purchased, not less than 30 days prior to the City Council meeting at which the approval of the purchase will be on the agenda.

This bill will be tough to pass and both Mike and Arthur need your support.  Their email addresses are:

            mikeball@knology.net

            arthur@arthurorr.com

 Please contact any other state legislator you might know and ask that he or she support this bill.  I would urge you to contact our U.S. representatives, Senator Shelby, Senator Sessions and Congressman Griffith, and express your concerns over the absolute power enjoyed by these Authorities.

We can also attend the Huntsville Housing Authority Board meetings.  The meetings are open to the public and are held on the third Monday of every month at either 5 pm or 12 (noon) pm.  You can visit the Authority’s website for more information:

            www.huntsvillehousing.org

Mr. Lundy can be reached at 551-5635.  HHA’s Director of Development, Mrs. Carlen Williams, can be reached at 532-5623.

I am attaching a document I sent out several weeks ago.  It gives the legal description of the relationship between the City and HHA.  It also outlines what and when I knew about HHA’s plans in south Huntsville.

Again, I thank you for your support and patience.  I pledge to you I will continue to work on this issue and keep you informed.

Sincerely,
Sandra Moon

Here is the attachment:

From: Moon, Sandra
Sent: Tuesday, April 07, 2009 3:38 PM

Subject: Purchase of Apartments in Southeast Huntsville by the Huntsville Housing Authority

Due to the large number of phone calls and email I have received regarding Huntsville Housing Authority’s  purchase of several apartment complexes in south Huntsville, I am electing to respond by email to afford a speedier response to all.

First, let me give some background behind HHA and its relationship to the City.  I asked our City Attorney to write an explanation of the Huntsville Housing Authority (HHA) because I wanted any information I share to be completely correct.

The HHA was established pursuant to Sections 24–1-1, et seq. of the Code of Alabama (or its predecessors).  Under the law, the City Council authorized the creation of the Authority following satisfaction of certain procedural requirements.  HHA was established more than 40 years ago.  The Authority consists of five (5) members, each of whom is appointed by the Mayor of the City of Huntsville.  Other than appointment of these members, neither the Mayor, the City Council, nor the City of Huntsville as a corporate entity has any jurisdictional authority over the operations, finances, or actions of HHA.  HHA functions as an independent, public corporation, and has broad powers including, but not limited to, the power to acquire property (either through mutual agreement or eminent domain), borrow money, construct and manage residential housing, and receive grants from the federal government for or in aid of construction of any housing project or development.

The remainder of this email contains information from various sources which I believe to be true.  HHA bought some apartment units last year or early this year in an area I will call Mahogany Row.  These apartments are located behind the supermarket at the corner of Bailey Cove and Weatherly Road.  I do not know specific addresses.  I believe HHA “clients” have moved in.  I first heard “rumors” of the purchase about 6 or 8 weeks ago.  I have had no inquiries or complaints from anyone regarding the Mahogany Row apartments.

I have been aware for approximately 2 years that HHA was locating families (and individuals?) in various apartments throughout the city utilizing a system referred to as “section 8 vouchers,” but was not informed of specific apartment names or locations in south Huntsville.  Again, I have never had any other inquiries or complaints regarding this program or its clients.

I was not aware of HHA’s purchase of Stone Manor (off of Byrd Springs Road) until I read about it in the Huntsville Times on March 21, 2009.  I have no personal knowledge of anyone connected with City government who had prior knowledge.

I attended a Chaffee Neighborhood Civic Association meeting this past Monday evening.  A representative of HHA explained the purchase of Stone Manor by the HHA occurred on March 1, and fifty apartment units are involved.   It has been determined by HHA that approximately 50% of those currently residing in the apartments meet HHA financial requirements, and may elect to continue to live there.  HHA anticipates the remaining units will be occupied by senior citizens and “self sufficient workers.”  The HHA representative attending the meeting assured those present that HHA clients are carefully screened, and those with criminal backgrounds are rejected. 

Two Huntsville Community Relations Police officers at the meeting confirmed they work closely with HHA, and have successfully and legally ejected from HHA housing those clients not meeting HHA behavior requirements.

A point of contact at HHA is Mrs. Carlen Williams, Director of Development.  She may be reached at 551-5623.

Another public meeting concerning this issue will be held on April 6 at 6:30 pm in the Chaffee Elementary School cafeteria.  It is my understanding Mayor Battle and Michael Lundy, CEO of HHA, will attend.

I have been asked what can be done to stop this HHA effort.  I have asked the City Attorney for advice, and it appears anything the City could do to restrict or change our relationship with HHA will be superseded by state and possibly federal law.  I will continue to seek legal advice and explore other possible options.  There was talk about a class action suit at Monday’s meeting, but I have no more information on that.

I appreciate the opportunity to present what information I know in response to your concerns.

Sincerely,
Sandra Moon

One thought on “Moon – Huntsville Housing Authority Status Report

  1. However, word has now come out that the HHA is not ruling out any part of Huntsville for more purchases.