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ARHA Announces Berg Vacation Completed

All residents of that section of Samuel Madden Homes (Downtown), known as The Berg, scheduled for redevelopment, have been relocated, clearing the way for demolition. It is anticipated that will occur no later than the end of October.

That was the schedule announced at the Monday night meeting of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority [ARHA] Board of Commissioners. However, the actual demolition contract is under review by state historical personnel "because the property is over 50 years old," according to Connie Lenox, ARHA's administrative director of development.

"They have 30 days to review the contract," Lenox informed the Board. No problems are anticipated. Advertising of bids for the demolition contract will be done this month with a contract to be submitted to the Board for its approval at the November meeting, Lenox reported.

She also announced the application for the Special Use Permit [SUP], pertaining to the Berg's redevelopment, had been submitted to the Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning on September 5. "It will be considered at the December Planning Committee meeting," she said.

FINAL NEGOTIATIONS between ARHA and the Berg developer, Eakin/Youngentob, are presently underway. "It is anticipated that a signed agreement will be in place by the end of October," ARHA's newsletter reported. "We had a very successful meeting with Eakin/Youngentob last week and many of our concerns have been answered," Dearman assured the Board.

Their publication also stated, "Demolition of the site (The Berg) will begin when ARHA and the developer sign a Developer's Agreement. There will be further meetings with interested parties in November 2002.

"In March 2003, a Low-Income Housing Tax Credits application will be submitted to the Virginia Department of Housing and on-site land development will begin. Construction on the ARHA housing and the market-rate homes will begin simultaneously on the Berg site in August 2003."

ARHA's target completion predictions are, "The first ARHA and market-rate homes will be available for occupancy in March 2004, and the project will be completed in December 2005."

"The smooth relocation of the residents could not have happened without their full cooperation," William Dearman, ARHA executive director, stated. "Some have been moved into permanent housing while others are in temporary quarters while they attempt to utilize their Section 8 vouchers."

ARHA REPORTED, "Those Section 8 voucher holders who have not yet found housing have been located in public housing units." If they are not able to utilize their vouchers they will be able to remain in public housing, according to Mary Ish, ARHA's director of housing operations.

ARHA's standoff with the U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] over section 8 vouchers continues. The only recent contact between the two governmental units has been by telephone with HUD stating they are still reviewing the situation, according to Dearman. "We have sent a letter to Congressman Moran asking that he set up a meeting with the Secretary of HUD," Dearman explained.

Ish stated, "We have pointed out to HUD that in 2000 we were actually over leased" in conjunction with our Section 8 vouchers. She explained, "Fairfax County has absorbed 200 of our people and we have 600 out looking for housing at the present time.

"The Department of Mental Health has also asked if Section 8 vouchers can be used in group homes. HUD has indicated they see no problem with this. We may be able to allocate 15 vouchers in this manner."

Ish further noted that ARHA has received more calls from potential landlords indicating an interest in participating in the program since the recent article in the Gazette. That article dealt with the problems faced by holders of Section 8 vouchers in a tight housing market and HUD's requirement that agencies use 95 percent of their vouchers or risk having them reallocated to other jurisdictions.

However, Dearman informed the Board that their target for February 2003, was only to be at 90 percent use. Commissioner Antoine P. Cobb questioned why it was below the HUD requirement of 95 percent usage. Dearman explained that he did not feel it was possible to reach that level by February and did not want "to set an unrealistic goal. Based on statistics that's all we can reach by that time."

FOLLOWING THAT ANSWER, Commissioner Shirley Marshall asked how often the landlord list was updated. Ish explained that was done "only when a landlord calls in." ARHA does not initiate calls to landlords to encourage them to participate in the Section 8 voucher program, according to Ish.

Dearman announced that ARHA's Housing Operations staff, which administers the public and Section 8 housing programs, has been relocated from 600 N. Fairfax St. to 18 Roth St. The new location is just off Duke Street near ARHA's maintenance office.

All new lease-ups, waiting lists, briefings, and recertifications will now be undertaken at the Roth Street location. The new offices opened for business on September 16.