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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Final families being relocated from Roger Williams

Shelecia Harper is alone on her street. Among the many vacant buildings with boarded-up windows, the 54-year-old’s home inside the Roger Williams housing community is the only one occupied on her block and one of only a few still occupied throughout the 453-unit complex. She said she will be moving soon. “I’m supposed to be going to South Bay Apartments,” Harper said. “It’s hard because they couldn’t put you nowhere in 90 days.” The Mobile Housing Board has worked to help move residents out of the development since July, in anticipation of redeveloping the property for mixed-use, mixed-income housing, using tax credits. Some residents, like Harper, were given a Housing Choice Voucher, commonly referred to as Section 8, to move to another apartment. While board employees have been helpful lately, Harper complained residents should have been given more time to move out in order to find better options. “At the last minute they put people where they don’t want to be,” she said. “They should’ve had a better situation.” MHB Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn confirmed through email they began moving the final families out of Roger Williams Homes on July 19, but it hasn’t quite been completed yet. “There were 110 families on site when the relocation effort was announced to the community … ,” he wrote. “MHB hopes to complete the relocation by the end of October 2016...

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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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