HUD report finds faults

Croslan responds with plan to improve public housing

Building problems found

Housing authority director blames aging facilities

Annapolis

May 21, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

After a federal report found substandard conditions at 10 Annapolis public housing neighborhoods, the head of the Annapolis Housing Authority is pledging to focus on the buildings' physical conditions - and to seek financing to pay for improvements.

Executive Director Patricia Holden Croslan, whose contract was extended a week ago amid harsh criticism from residents about housing conditions, noted the age of the buildings to explain the poor physical ratings in the recent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report.

"Some of the properties are old, up to 60 years old," said Croslan, warning, "I am not going to be able to bring those properties up to HUD standards in a few years."

But Carl O. Snowden, special assistant to County Executive Janet S. Owens, said the May 5 Public Housing Assessment System study "speaks volumes" about Croslan's performance as director.

"What it does is substantiate what residents have been saying about the physical conditions of public housing, which is that it's deplorable," Snowden said.

The advisory report found what it called "life-threatening deficiencies," which could include exposed wires or light switches without plates, in eight of the 10 neighborhoods: Eastport Terrace, Bowman Court, Harbor House Apartments, Robinwood, Bloomsbury Square, Annapolis Gardens, Newtowne Twenty and Obery Court.

Croslan said the observed life-threatening problems were fixed immediately.

Two other neighborhoods, Glenwood High Rise and College Creek Terrace, were found to have one or more "non-life-threatening deficiencies."

The housing authority received satisfactory marks in the assessment's financial category (22.8 out of 30) and in management practices (24.8 out of 30), but low marks in physical assessment (16.7 out of 30) and resident surveys (5.4 out of 10).

In a previous HUD report that did not include physical assessments, the housing authority earned high scores. But Croslan said she had warned the authority's Board of Commissioners that the neighborhoods would not perform well on this year's assessment "because this was going to include the physical aspects of the property."

On the residents' surveys, the authority received high marks in the safety category (0.7 out of 1) and maintenance and repair (0.8 out of 1).

Residents ranked the appearance of the neighborhoods the lowest (0.5 out of 10). Croslan said the authority will attempt to improve the appearance by laying down more mulch and grass seed and by cleaning the properties more often.

The report is issued at a time of turmoil surrounding Crosland's stewardship of the housing authority.

On May 9, the commissioners voted unanimously to extend her contract by three years despite criticism by residents who claim that the housing authority doesn't care about the rundown properties.

The commissioners received the recent HUD ratings in their board packets for that same meeting. Croslan said the rankings might be discussed at the group's meeting next month.

Board member Mary Lou Pontius said she was not surprised by the report because the city's public housing facilities are among the oldest in the nation and need to be improved. "I'm vitally interested in providing good-quality housing, but I do know that our housing is old and in great need with limited funds," she said.

Howard S. Pinskey, the board's chairman, noted that the management ratings were high and reiterated the point that the physical conditions of the buildings contributed to the overall low score. He said the authority is having an independent study done on each building that will assess its interior and exterior.

Croslan, meanwhile, said the housing authority has invested $3 million in improvements since she has been in office. She also said she plans to seek creative financing to pay for improvements.

Sun staff writer Amanda J. Crawford contributed to this article.

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