Grant to aid public housing

Funds to help bring units up to safety, health standards

November 08, 2006|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

The state has pitched in a half-million dollars to help the Annapolis Housing Authority bring two aging communities up to safety and health standards.

The grant announced last week by the Department of Housing and Community Development will fix wiring, doors, windows, smoke detectors and minor structural problems in Obery Court and College Creek Terrace, which are among the oldest public housing properties in the country.

College Creek Terrace, which has 109 units, is slated for major renovation, while Obery Court, with 56 units, will likely be demolished. The maintenance work will stabilize the units until the housing authority decides what to do.

"The federal government is cutting the amount of money we have available, and this is a little extra cushion until we are able to figure out the long-term future of College Creek Terrace and Obery Court," said Eric Brown, executive director of the authority. "Until then, we have to try to keep it pieced together."

The authority, which manages 10 federally owned properties in the city, has suffered from a worsening funding shortfall, exacerbated by a recent increase in BGE rates. In January, tenants will have to begin paying a portion of their utility costs.

The repair work is expected to begin in about 30 days; Alderman Michael Christman will introduce a resolution Monday allowing the money to be spent.

"These funds will help the City of Annapolis bring their properties into compliance with current building codes and ensure the health and safety of their residents," Shawn S. Karimian, acting secretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development, said in a statement.

Brown said the money could be used to insulate exposed pipes and repair plumbing problems in several units in College Creek Terrace, which was built in 1946. Obery Court, built in 1952, has similar problems, and tenants have complained about mold, uneven flooring and poor ventilation.

For the past several months, a revitalization committee has been meeting to discuss the future of both properties. The authority has hired Marks, Thomas and Associates, a Baltimore-based architectural firm, to draw up plans for the two complexes.

The concept drawings will be presented at a committee meeting Tuesday. The committee is expected to make a final recommendation as early as January.

Initial estimates put the cost of both projects at about $7 million.

"The area needs to be revitalized, and I'm pleased with the grant," Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said yesterday. "Clearly there's a need for restoration and renovation and rebuilding. It's a positive piece, but a small piece of a bigger picture."

Moyer's "bigger picture" includes the entire Clay Street neighborhood, and she has proposed that the 3 waterfront acres of Obery Court be sold for redevelopment or converted to open space.

Robert H. Eades, a community activist who co-chairs the revitalization committee, said the grant gives dispirited residents some hope that their homes won't be razed.

"If the grant is used right, it will show people that the way they are living, they don't have to live that way, it will make people understand that we can live in decent housing," Eades said. "It's not to be fixed up to be torn down. It's to be fixed up to prepare for what's to come."

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