Monday, January 22, 2007

6% cut in Housing Authority: Plan to divert 1% property, 25% hotel taxes

Charlottesville, Va.-- Already operating at 85% of needed funding, the Redevelopment and Housing Authority's federal funding was cut 24% or by $318,000 as of January 1st and CRHA will have to dip into its $600,000 rainy day fund. The agency manages 376 public housing units at 11 sites and 345 Section 8 apartment units.

Director Noah Schwartz said, "This is going to be felt by the tenants" but he doesn't expect to lay off any of the agency's 24 employees. Former chairman of the urban renewal board of directors, Howard Evergreen said, “If we don’t do something, that’s 376 units [public housing] that could disappear.” ( "Housing authority faces cuts: Federal funding slashed", By Brian McNeill,, January 21, 2007 )

At the Housing Authority's website, I don't see a link to this story or the finances of the agency.

On January 18, 2005, City Councilor Kendra Hamilton said the Charlottesville's Housing Authority had a $5.5 million budget, the vast majority from Housing and Urban Development. $318,000 is only 6% of $5.5M. 85.5% of $5.5M is $4.7M. 24% of $4.7M is $1.1M. There seems to be an error somewhere.

[Update/Correction Jan. 25: Housing Authority annual budget is $4.5 million. 24% of $4.5 million is $1.08 million. $318,000 is 7% of $4.5 million. The authority now reports 300 Section 8 apartment units.]

During her report, she called for more urban renewal-- the seizing and selling of real estate for use and ownership of third parties, which is a felony in the United States. "This was one of the big lacks, is that the Redevelopment portion of the Housing Authority's title had been neglected over the years," said Hamilton ( "Council Beat: Parade of grievances, Housing Authority report", Jan. 19, 2005 ), who is now chairman of the 7-member commission appointed by City Council to oversee the authority.

At the Jan. 2 Council meeting three weeks ago, Hamilton said the latest proposal to address affordable housing relies on the availability of lots owned by CRHA. She said mixed income redevelopment can be created on lots currently owned by CRHA. ( Official Council Minutes for Jan. 2, 2007 open meeting )

Levy Avenue is an example of property the Housing Authority claims to own and wants to use for this purpose Dec. 15, 2006 update.

The proposed plan to divert funds from other areas to the Housing Authority has 5 parts, according to Jim Tolbert, director of Neighborhood Development Services.

1) commit all CDBG and HOME dollars that are not dedicated to administrative or social programs to this project for 10 years
2) set aside 25% of transient room taxes
3) dedicate the equivalent of one cent of the real property tax to the fund
4) using the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to administer the workforce housing dollars
5) direct HOME/CDBG dollars to CRHA?

Even if all federal funding of the Redevelopment and Housing Authority, created in 1954, is eliminated, city leaders are resolved to continue its gentrification programs in the name of affordable housing.

On Nov. 29, 2006 the Housing Authority issued a press release stating that HUD had removed CRHA from its "troubled" list because the Section 8 housing voucher program after three years on the list. The agency was upgraded to "standard performer."

2006 Draft Annual and 5-year Plan

Plan is Due to HUD by January 17, 2007

"form HUD 50075 (03/2003) Table Library Page 8

The substance of this Annual Plan clearly defines current practices and is similar to those submitted in previous years. It does not, however, adequately describe the enormous change this organization is undertaking through new, on-going initiatives or the development of critical operational plans. Moreover, while daily operations are the truest expression of our policies, our work to refine those policies and better plan our activities are the best indicator of our future service delivery. As such, it’s important to take a moment to describe that work here.

With strong support from the Board of Commissioners, CRHA has begun a process to re-assess it’s philosophical foundation and put new baseline policies into place. This begins with an open discussion about mission and organizational by-laws as a Board retreat topic to be carried out over the next 6 months. Questions as to what CRHA’s goals, principles and values are will be posed and answered to create a shared understanding of our mission. Agency by-laws defining governance, Board structure and responsibilities will undoubtedly be altered as part of this review to better describe this new understanding.

While the basic organizational philosophy is being defined by the Board of Commissioners, staff will be developing a set of basic operational policies for community and Board consideration. These policies will include a new Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)/Section 8 Plan, a new Public Housing Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan (ACOP), a new Maintenance Plan, a new set of Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) and a new set of Financial Operation Procedures (FOPs). These policies are the backbone of organizational operations and will be the most critical factor in determining future success. Some of these documents are already under development such as the HCV/Section 8 Plan and ACOP. As currently vacant key management positions are filled (e.g. Public Housing Manager, Finance Director), policy development will begin to move forward more quickly. Final approval of these documents (as well as any number of other supporting documents such as a new lease, capital budget plan, etc.), subject to board and community consideration, should move forward in phases over the next 6-18 months.

Both enabling and supporting this work are two important endeavors. The first is filling vacant staff positions and continued staff training. With a new organizational structure approved by the Board of Commissioners in September 2005, the agency’s top program management position (Public Housing Manager), top public housing program position, front line HCV/Section 8 program position and Finance Director position and three maintenance positions are all vacant. CRHA fully expects to fill the program positions over the next 60 days. Maintenance positions have historically been harder to fill but should be in place within 90 days. With so many current staff new to the agency (13 hired within the last 6 months) and seven more to come on board, training for all will be vital to our success. Thus, the organization must continue to seek affordable, programmatically succinct trainings to participate in.

The second endeavor we must successfully take on is to change our integrated software to a more modern, user-friendly system, better able to create the kinds of reports CRHA administration needs to manage the organization. As part of this process, the agency must move to site-based accounting and management. This software and accounting practice change is of the up-most importance and very hard to over-state. It will not only give us an enormous system tool for managing our activities, it will allow us to do so consistent with the private market model so strongly backed by HUD. Although this is a particularly complex project, the agency intends to make this conversion by the end of FY06.

The scope and time table for the initiatives described above are daunting. The projected schedule will be hyper-sensitive to other “environmental” issues that may arise (e.g. unforeseen staffing problems, new regulatory concerns, unexpected programmatic concerns, etc.) and must be carried out while delivering normal programming. For CRHA, that means this work will get done while we continue to conduct a full file review, “catch-up” with annual re-certifcations, comply with our SEMAP Action Plan, and improve performance in all functional areas. This agency, it’s staff and Commissioners, are up to the task and these goals will be met.

News and Press Releases Printer Friendly CRHA Out of "Troubled" Status

Notification from HUD Great News
Posted Date: 11/29/2006

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) received formal notification this week from HUD Richmond Field Office that their Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program has achieved “Standard Performer” status. CRHA’s Housing Choice Voucher program had been classified as “troubled” each of the previous three years.

Noah Schwartz, CRHA Executive Director stated that “This is a great accomplishment for an agency that has struggled over the last few years. This has been a group effort all the way along beginning with our board’s work putting the plan together and its implementation by our dedicated program staff and ending with a successful on-site review of our activities. I really couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve accomplished-.”

Schwartz continued, “Clearly, we still have many challenges before us and we’ll need continued improvement of program delivery if we are to successfully fulfill our mission to provide housing opportunities to low-income families. Nonetheless, this is a terrific first step.”

Jason Halbert, a member of the CRHA Board of Commissioners, said “As a new Commissioner it is great to see this agency turn-around under the leadership of Noah Schwartz and his team, especially in light of decreasing funding and increasing demand for affordable housing.”

Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program status is determined annually by certification of program performance standards as detailed in the Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP). Program standards are evaluated in 15 different categories with the resulting score determining program status. CRHA underwent an extensive on-site Confirmatory Review prior to receiving a final score and status.

CRHA is a quasi-government organization operating in the City of Charlottesville. The agency manages a number of programs in addition to the Housing Choice Voucher program including Public Housing (375 units), Down Payment Assistance, and Closing Cost Assistance programs. CRHA serves over 1600 individuals each year.

For more information on CRHA, visit, call (434) 970-3253 or e-mail Noah Schwartz at


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