Mobile Housing Board

Despite plans for multimillion-dollar redevelopment projects, the Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners has been beset by financial shortcomings and dilapidating infrastructure. From reprimands from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a lawsuit from former employees to the recent resignations of a longtime commissioner and executive director, the board has continued with plans to update its affordable housing stock.

Mobile Housing Board

Mobile Housing Board scrutinizes redevelopment plan

The Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners questioned some aspects of the renderings of redevelopment plans during presentations at the board’s annual meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14. While completely new streetscapes, revitalized communities and new retail space are what the the board was promised, some of the commissioners had reservations. The presentations showed sketches of what redevelopment could mean for the now-vacant Roger Williams Homes on the city’s north side and the surrounding Three Mile Trace neighborhood, as well as Thomas James Place, Boykin Tower and R.V. Taylor communities on the city’s south side. The presentations for both were the result of two years of community meetings and discussions, made possible by two Choice Neighborhood Planning Grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to MHB. A plan has been proposed for the redevelopment of the three MHB properties on the city’s southside. Like the Three Mile Trace plan, Marie Mhoon, a local project manager, said the plan envisions a neighborhood with parks, mixed-income housing with retail businesses and job opportunities. The southside plan includes space for retail near Interstate 10, Mhoon said, with plans to bring shops in first before the bulk of the housing. Cummings had doubts the plan would be successful. “Retail will be tough,” he said. “It follows the development of housing. It will be the last to come.” READ OUR ONGOING SERIES...

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MDE is unlike housing board partners in other cities

Like the Mobile Housing Board, neighboring housing authorities in New Orleans, Huntsville and Birmingham use nonprofit arms to manage everything from the distribution of tax credits to resident services, but none had the scope of responsibility Mobile Development Enterprises has. MDE has 23 employees, not including a maintenance crew once part of MHB’s vacancy reduction program. The maintenance employees have since been laid off, executive director Dwayne Vaughn said in a previous Lagniappe interview. Previous Lagniappe reporting and a report released last month by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General revealed that MDE and the board share office space, phone lines and bank accounts. A source familiar with the inner workings of the board’s central office said some MHB employees would complete assignments for the nonprofit. The OIG report also found that while MHB considers MDE a third-party affiliate and not technically part of the authority, its board included two MHB members and its executive director served as the nonprofit’s president. MDE still manages the WEALTH program, which provides a variety of education and job placement opportunities for residents. The program also provides health services such as free eye exams and annual checkups, as well as classes on life skills. MDE is also involved in the housing authority’s day care program, community relations, grant writing and asset management, Vaughn said. Comparatively, the Housing Authority of...

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Housing Board’s vacancy reduction program examined

While a Mobile Housing Board official praised a program aimed at addressing an issue that was the focus of a blistering federal audit, both former and current employees called it a waste of money. In an email message sent earlier this month, MHB Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn called the agency’s Vacancy Reduction Program, or VRP, a “success.” He wrote that the plan, which was later called an “occupancy initiative,” was devised as a way to address the board’s “significant occupancy concerns.” The program was approved by HUD’s Alabama field office in 2011. “The VRP was approved by HUD-Birmingham on January 27, 2011, and fully operational on July 18, 2011,” Vaughn wrote. “Since the initiation of the VRP/OI occupancy effort, some 1,589 units have been turned, made ready, come online or otherwise leased. Moreover, all of the original units identified in the original VRP have been addressed, excepting those then-vacant units in Roger Williams Homes and Thomas James.” Vaughn said the program was multi-pronged. The plan was to demolish two obsolete sites — Roger Williams Homes and Josephine Allen — where some 90 percent of the board’s vacancies existed, as well as work to fill vacancies in other communities. The plan also sought to curb the number of move-outs to below national averages. The program was ultimately hurt by move-outs, Vaughn wrote. “We believe VRP/OI were successful. Unfortunately, MHB did...

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Mobile Housing Board accused of financial noncompliance, conflict of interest

While an investiagtion into the Mobile Housing Board by the HUD Office of the Inspector General pointed directly to the awarding of a multimillion-dollar contract to a company owned by the half-brother of State Rep. Adline Clarke, even more questionable connections appear to exist between the Clarke and those who may have benefited from MHB and MDE work. Clarke is a vice president of the board’s nonprofit arm, Mobile Development Enterprises. Frank Seltzer, who state records list as president of Superior Masonry — a company that received more than $3 million worth of work from 2011 to 2015, as...

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More than 5,000 on housing board’s waiting lists

More than 5,000 people are currently waiting for apartments or housing choice vouchers through the Mobile Housing Board, Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn recently confirmed in an email message. Although vouchers and rentals mean revenue for the authority, the MHB was unable to award vouchers to 4,808 people following a June 23-27 application window, Vaughn wrote, when a total of 6,257 people applied. There are also 668 people currently waiting for apartments in MHB’s 12 complexes. The wait time on the voucher list, which allows low-income renters and families rental assistance in a private complex, is anywhere from 12 to 24 months, Vaughn wrote. “The challenge to providing more families with housing does not stem from the number of families on the public housing waiting lists, although several properties could benefit from more robust waiting lists,” Vaughn wrote. “Rather, the challenge is the desirability of the communities, along with the age of the properties, their obsolete infrastructure and a reduction in the federal funding MHB receives that makes it difficult to spend the resources necessary to make apartments ready for rent.” The amount of money required to make some of the MHB apartments ready to lease runs anywhere from $1,000 to more than $30,000, he said, explaining “these circumstances are part of the reasons MHB is embarking on the Housing Transformation Plan 2020 and pursuing the Rental Assistance Demonstration program.”...

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About The Author

Dale Liesch

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Dale Liesch has been a reporter at Lagniappe since February 2014. He covers all aspects of the city of Mobile, including the mayor, city council, the Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners, GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico and others. He studied journalism at The University of Alabama and actually graduated in 2007. He came to Lagniappe, after several years in the newspaper industry. He achieved the position of news editor at The Alexander City Outlook before moving to Virginia and then subsequently moving back a few years later. He has a number of Alabama and Virginia Press association awards to his name. He grew up in the wilderness of Baldwin County, among several different varieties of animals including: dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, a horse and an angry goat. He now lives in Midtown Mobile with his wife, Hillary, and daughter, Joan. The family currently has no goats, angry or otherwise, but is ruled by the whims of two very energetic dogs.

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