Thursday, December 6, 2018

Of HHA and Housing in Hudson

Last week, a headline on the front page of Columbia Paper announced "Private firm to own Bliss Tower." In the article that followed, reporter Jeanette Wolfberg recounted the November 14 meeting of the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissions, at which HHA executive director Tim Mattice explained to tenants the RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) program and how it will affect them. Gossips was at that meeting, too. 

RAD is federal program now being promoted as a way to save public housing by allowing housing authorities to partner with private sector entities to seek private funding. Mattice told tenants at the meeting, "Congress is no longer funding public housing," HHA "typically gets a couple hundred thousand dollars a year" (not enough to maintain the building and make the needed improvements), and "Ben Carson [HUD Secretary] sent out a letter saying they want all housing authorities to convert to RAD." 

The RAD conversion is being pursued in order to carry out a $55 million project, which involves the complete rehabilitation of Bliss Towers--inside and out--and the construction of two new buildings across State Street from Bliss Towers.

Speaking of the future, Mattice explained, "We are going to be co-owners of the building with shared management responsibilities with our development partners." Those development partners are PRC (Property Resources Corporation). The co-ownership agreement would be in force for fifteen years, after which HHA would have first right of refusal to buy the buildings. 

In her article, Wolfberg reported that a woman in the audience asked, "What if PRC says, 'We aren't getting as much as we could get, so we want to turn this into condos?'" The question, as well as the rest of Wolfberg's report, inspired Parry Teasdale to write an editorial about the state of affordable housing in Hudson generally and specifically about the agreement HHA is now negotiating with PRC: "How much is Bliss worth?" The editorial ends by evoking the hobgoblin of gentrification and enjoining HHA not to enter into an agreement with PRC unless the rights of residents are protected.
So imagine a company that, in 2033, owns a high rise apartment building in Hudson with upper floor apartments that have spectacular views. The neighborhood will have benefited from the $10 million state grant to develop the waterfront. People who know money would say that's a deal worth waiting for, especially because there will be revenue in the meantime from government vouchers for low-income tenants who can now (in 2033) be displaced.
Property Resources Corporation is not doing Hudson a favor by partnering with HHA. It's making a shrewd investment that promises a high return. HHA should not underestimate the value of its asset in terms of improvements and the veto powers the HHA board will need in writing to protect the rights of residents. Otherwise the deal should not be approved.
Gossips tried to speak with Mattice to get his reaction to this editorial, but my phone call was not returned. I was, however, able to speak with Alan Weaver, chair of the HHA Board of Commissioners, who explained that even after fifteen years, the buildings would still be subject to the same income parameters (percentage of area median income) that Bliss Towers is now. He assured me there was no plan to convert the buildings to high-end condos.

Weaver also told me that, at the next meeting of the HHA board, which takes place on Wednesday, December 12, at 6 p.m., in the Community Room at Bliss Towers, the final design for the new buildings will be presented, as well as the design for the exterior rehabilitation of Bliss Towers. (It's rumored that those powder blue panels under the windows may be going away.) The meeting may be an opportunity for members of the larger Hudson community to ask questions about the RAD conversion and its impacts.


  1. I find it odd that we had a housing task force, started by Mayor Tiffany Hamilton and continued by Mayor Rick Rector, and that none of this was discussed then. Also, Carole, didn't we have something similar to RAD at the low-income housing project on the River? Wasn't that federal housing that was transferred to private ownership about six years ago?

    1. Actually it was discussed--at least, announced--at a Housing Task Force meeting, and I reported on it: I'm pretty sure you were there, Peter.

  2. Gee, Hudsonians are following the directives of the Trump Corporation- i mean administration. Weird, but here is why.

    Hudson since the 1960s and 70s has always been about the Industry of Poverty. How can the local pols cash in on government and public private partnerships to grease their palms. Everyone says they are helping the poor, but they are trapping them for generations in the New Plantation -- where local pols get rich on the poor lambs of poverty.

    everyone feels good just as long as they stay put in the ghetto where drugs, violence, and all sorts of other problems are on the police blotter weekly. and they are there forever on the dole.