Policy on city housing tightened Criminals to be barred as tenants

privatized management planned

September 18, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's public housing authority will bar drug dealers and other criminals from living in its buildings and privatize the management of units being built to replace demolished high-rises as part of a new plan to improve subsidized housing in the city.

Under the plan, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City also will no longer allow homeless people to move from the street to public housing without first spending time in supervised transitional housing. The authority will let residents help screen prospective new tenants.

The plan for the "new HABC" will be laid out by Executive Director Daniel P. Henson III at a meeting of 1,500 public housing employees this morning at the Mechanic Theatre. A copy of Henson's prepared remarks was provided to The Sun.

Saying the city never will be able to fully meet the demand for public housing, Henson said the purpose of the plan is to make subsidized housing desirable for better tenants.

"We have got to focus our attention on those families most likely to succeed, instead of [those] least likely," Henson said.

The plan is part of a nationwide trend to transform public housing from a program that permanently consigned the nation's neediest families to deteriorated buildings in crime-infested areas. It is made possible by recent changes in federal regulations that allow local authorities greater flexibility in how they run public housing programs.

"What you've described to me is very consistent with the kinds of policies we've been encouraging," said Alex Sachs, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington.

The authority provides housing for about 25,000 poor families in scattered units and developments through certificates and vouchers. It has an annual budget of $200 million, made up of federal grants and rents paid by tenants.

In his prepared remarks, Henson said that the housing authority last week submitted a proposal to HUD for $40 million for the "total revitalization" of the Hollander Ridge public housing project in East Baltimore and the destruction of the long-vacant Fairfield Homes, part of the city's empowerment zone in South Baltimore, to make way for planned commercial development.

That request is in addition to the $300 million in federal funds the city has received or has been promised for tearing down and re- building its public high-rise towers. Lafayette Courts and Lexington Terrace have been demolished; Murphy Homes and Flag Courts are scheduled to come down by 2001.

By allowing the rebuilt developments to be "managed by the same people who are building them," Henson said, the authority will be able to concentrate on the backlog of work orders at its 33 other developments.

Henson said his plan envisioned "no layoffs" but that he planned new pay scales and mandatory six-month evaluations of employees by Jan. 1.

Acknowledging the need for increased homeless services, Henson nonetheless declared that the time when people "went directly from homeless to public housing is over."

"People who are homeless are very often homeless because they have problems of dysfunction," Henson said. "It makes little sense to take people directly from dysfunctional homelessness to public housing without requiring that they go through some sort of transition first."

Pub Date: 9/18/96

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