We've just received a two-part press release from We Are New Albany.
In Spring 2017, New Albany, Indiana Mayor Jeff Gahan announced his intention to demolish more than half of the town's public housing stock. Apart from vague promises of housing vouchers, residents have been told almost nothing about the plan or what will become of them. Sign the petition: No demolition without a plan to replace!
Part One (below): "A CITY WHERE WE ALL CAN LIVE: A report prepared by the We Are New Albany Campaign."
Part Two (click link): We Are New Albany March 17, 2018 Press Release (endorsement of Ed Clere).
A CITY WHERE WE ALL CAN LIVE
A report prepared by the We Are New Albany Campaign
One year ago, I was confident in the New Albany Housing Authority’s plan.
At the beginning of 2017, NAHA planned to construct dozens of new units of supportive housing. Its goals were to improve service quality, decrease housing density, meet the needs of residents like me, and foster sustainable communities. The plan was put forward by NAHA’s then-Director Bob Lane.
Before I met Mr. Lane, I felt like a complete failure: I had just managed to get myself and my two granddaughters out of a homeless shelter, I was working a low-wage job, and I didn’t know how ’d gotten to such a low point. But Mr. Lane turned my life around, telling me, “The only thing separating you from me is a paycheck. We’re not failures.” Once, when I was pending disability, he contracted with me to do work at NAHA. And when some NAHA housing was demolished, he personally took displaced residents to look for suitable housing. So it’s not hard to see why we residents trusted Mr. Lane’s plan to support our families and community. Mr. Lane’s plan cleared all the hurdles—legal, financial, and political. The funding was practically in Mr. Lane’s hand: all he needed was Mayor Jeff Gahan’s signature.
But Mayor Gahan had other plans.
In May 2017, Mr. Lane nodded and smiled at me as he entered the NAHA Board meeting. But he didn’t leave smiling: at that fateful meeting, Mr. Lane was publicly fired, prohibited from entering a statement into the record, and instructed to clear out his desk and be gone. My stomach sank. I just sat there with my mouth open, wondering if I was having a nightmare. For weeks after, I was in a state of shock and grief.
That was the day my confidence in NAHA collapsed.
Since then, NAHA has applied for the right to demolish more than half of the public housing stock. Interim Director David Duggins has publicly stated that he would rather not rebuild any of it.
It’s plain to see why: the land, situated near Baptist Hospital and the city’s prime commercial corridor, is attractive to land speculators and for-profit developers. In his previous role as the city’s Director of Redevelopment, Mr. Duggins handedout lucrative contracts to real estate interests: the Breakwater developers received millions of dollars in tax credits, infrastructure, and free land, and a 20-year waiver of property taxes -- plus public bonding of its debt. What goodies could be offered on the land where the NAHA units slated for demolition now sit?
Instead of articulating a plan, the Gahan Administration has simply insisted that none of us NAHA residents will be homeless when all is said and done.
We are skeptical about this promise — this report illustrates why.
Vouchers are no guarantee of stable, decent housing.
• Vouchers expire. In 2015, 28 percent of the vouchers issued through the New Albany Housing Authority expired because voucher holders were unable to find housing.1
• They’re not good everywhere. Landlords don’t have to accept Section 8 vouchers, and many can’t pass the required health and safety inspections.
• They don’t cover everything. Even when a Section 8 voucher is accepted, renters often need to be able to afford deposits and extra utility costs on sub-standard units.
• They don’t last forever. Rents rise, and when they do, renters might find that their vouchers no longer cover our costs. We may find ourselves homeless down the line, even if we have housing initially.
There is an extreme shortage of affordable housing in this area.
• We have nowhere to go. There are only 45 units of affordable housing for every 100 low-income renters in Clark County. The numbers are even worse in Floyd County, where there are only 42 units for every 100.2
• We are not alone. Between Clark and Floyd Counties, 4,000 households are housing insecure. Tearing down public housing will add to that number; building up the public housing stock would provide a safety net thousands need.3
• Most units are unfit to live in. In 2016, 57 percent of Housing Choice Voucher units failed initial inspections. Meanwhile, 51 percent of units previously approved failed their annual inspections.4
• Housing need continues to skyrocket. In recent years, foreclosures have surged. Clark County had 455 foreclosures filed in 2005; they peaked at 750 in 2010, declined, and then surged again to 741 in 2012. Floyd County, with a smaller population and slightly higher median income, peaked at 424 in 2008 and saw another high mark of 423 in 2012.5
There are no plans to build more affordable housing.
• Plenty of talk, no action. The Vision 2025 report says more affordable housing is needed—but lays out no steps for achieving it.
• “Not in my backyard!” runs rampant in our area, and there are no inclusionary zoning requirements. New Albany’s most enthusiastic development projects, like Breakwater apartments, provide affluent renters with luxury units, raising rents all over town and contributing to housing insecurity.
• Drowning in rent. Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $705—61 percent of the monthly income of an individual working full time at minimum wage.6
• Kicking out the poor. Almost all of New Albany’s prized economic development relies on low-wage labor. With housing vouchers that amount to one-way tickets out of the city we call home, the administration undermines its own accomplishments.
We believe New Albany can and must be a city where we all can live. From the beginning of our campaign, we’ve been clear in our call to Mayor Gahan and Interim Director Duggins not to demolish a single unit of public housing without a plan to replace it.
Here are some paths forward to heeding our call—preserving New Albany’s identity as a beautiful city that’s welcoming to all, and devoted to the people who make it what it is.
Re-adopt Bob Lane’s plan
Mr. Lane is a highly-respected, longtime expert in public housing administration, and his plan was met with approval by all parties concerned—not least by the residents who know that Mr. Lane was working in good faith, and with respect for the lives of NAHA residents.
Right to Return
The city could guarantee that the NAHA residents whose homes are slated for demolition have a right to return to comparably-sized units in whatever housing is to be constructed on the land in question.
For every unit it proposes to demolish, NAHA could develop a unit in a new property either on an empty lot in town, or where landlords have allowed their properties to become dilapidated.
Develop truly affordable housing.
New Albany can adopt inclusionary zoning requirements and develop properties where landlords are required to accept housing vouchers, and are publicly overseen to ensure that they maintain the units sufficiently to pass annual inspections.
1 Beilman, Elizabeth. “New Albany Housing Authority residents, activists plead with city to change course.” News and Tribune, Nov. 16, 2017
2 Fry, Melissa S. Vision 2025: A Strategic Plan to End Homelessness in Clark and Floyd County. Jeffersonville: 2015, p. 29.
3 ibid, p. 26
4 Beilman, Elizabeth. “New Albany aims for significant changes of public housing stock over next decade.” News and Tribune, Mar. 6, 2017
5 ibid, p. 26 6 Fry. Vision 2025, p. 33
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