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“Nationals October 2019

Annapolis Mayor Buckley defends his treatment of public housing residents

| October 26, 2019, 08:57 AM

Rams Head

UPDATE:  We have obtained a copy of the six page letter sent to the County and State from Maryland Legal Aid.  It is linked here and posted below.

The City of Annapolis is in a tough place when it comes to public housing. They do not own, nor manage any of the public housing properties in the City. They do not fund them, nor do they have any control over them beyond the appointment of the Board of Commissioners.  But Annapolis Mayor Buckley is taking the heat.

The Board is supposed to have seven members but the City has found difficulty in finding people willing to serve. Currently there are only four sitting members.  This Board hires and fires the Executive Director for the Housing Authority of the City Of Annapolis (HACA), and they too have been hard pressed to find stability. There has been significant turnover on the Board over the past three years. A new Executive Director just came on the job this month.

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HACA owns and manages 790 residential units for approximately 1200 City residents.

Late last night, the Mayor’s office released a response to a letter that was apparently not sent to him or the City, but to County and State leaders:

The City of Annapolis received a copy of a letter addressed to members of the state legislative delegation from Annapolis, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and District Six County Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien. The letter was not addressed (nor sent) to Mayor Buckley. It doesn’t not appear that the City Council received this correspondence (although it was sent to the local newspaper).

The letter was in regards to issues at the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis (HACA).  Mayor Buckley would like to address some of the issues raised in the letter.

In the City of Annapolis’ budget, delivered to the City Council in early April of 2019, Mayor Gavin Buckley asked the Council to approve the funding for the hiring of an additional property inspector and for the authorization for the City to begin inspections on HACA properties. HACA properties are private property (because HACA is an independent corporation).

In late May (nearly eight weeks later), HACA was sued on behalf of residents. The City of Annapolis and Mayor Buckley were named in the 111-page lawsuit.

By the time the City’s budget passed in June, the Council had authorized funding for the inspector to be hired and the inspections to begin. The City advertised for an inspector position when the budget was approved. The position was filled in August.

The City has inspected 150 units at Robinwood. HACA was given two weeks to correct life-safety issues and 30 days to correct structural issues.  City inspectors have returned to Robinwood every two weeks after the initial inspections throughout September and October to re-inspect units where HACA made repairs.

As of today, 114 of the 150 units have passed inspection and are licensed.  Repair work is ongoing at the remaining 36, and the City will continue to go out every two weeks.

The next inspections will be the 154 units at Morris Blum beginning the first week of November.

HACA will submit applications for the next round of inspections after Morris Blum that we intend to carry out in December.

As of December, the City expects that half of all HACA units will be inspected. The City will continue inspections at the rate of approximately 70 per month which gives HACA time to make the required repairs.

Mayor Buckley said that the funding for the demolition and rebuilding of Newtowne 20 has come online and that residents will be relocated within a 90- to 120-day timeframe. They will be relocated to other HACA properties or given Section 8 vouchers. They may choose to move outside of the City with the vouchers. Every Newtowne 20 resident who leaves in good standing with HACA has been guaranteed a unit after the rebuild.

“We have to get reinvestment in these areas,” Mayor Buckley said. “We have secured funding for Newtowne 20. Morris Blum funding is coming online. HACA got off of the HUD “Troubled” list. There is a new director.”

He added that the City is doing the inspections, “but we have to do them within the capacity for current inspections, including other licensed, non-HACA units in the City, and we have to be able to come back to the schedule in a year – or we will be right back where we are now with unlicensed units and everyone in a holding pattern.”

In addition, Mayor Buckley noted that his personal schedule has him spending much of his time in public housing addressing community issues and working with residents, including on issues of public safety.

“We hired a new police chief and we went into communities and asked for input,” Buckley said. “We hired the new police chief with all communities in mind. Edward Jackson came on board just a few months ago and is working on a plan for residents and communities to work with police on community initiatives.”

In September, Mayor Buckley and City Manager Teresa Sutherland, along with Director of Public Works Director David Jarrell, conducted the first of their “CEO Walks” where they go out to communities to tackle the issues the City has the authority to resolve, including fixing curbs, getting trash and debris removed, landscaping, and repairs to signs and bus stands.

“I know our City ombudsman also works on resolving issues for residents,” Buckley said. He added, “it is my highest priority to take care of the residents in this City that need it the most. Anyone who knows me knows that that is true.”

Mayor Buckley also recently met with Anne Arundel County counterparts in housing. The Mayor walked away with three key takeaways:

  1. Don’t let the Housing Authority for the City of Annapolis (HACA) go into receivership
  2. Don’t let the problems with HACA be put in a political context
  3. Take particular care of the people who live there. They are the most vulnerable residents in your community and they deserve your attention and safekeeping.

HACA properties in the past had never been inspected or licensed by the City. There is no codification or agreement for this exemption, it was just a long standing policy. Due to complaints of the conditions of many units, former Mayor Mike Pantelides started an inspection program for HACA properties, but that program was stopped sometime after he lost the election in 2017. Inspections just recently resumed (according to Mayor Buckley’s statement above) in August 2019, three months after a Federal lawsuit was filed against HACA and the City claiming systemic racism and deplorable conditions.

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