The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has agreed to allow the Mobile Housing Board to sell off Josephine Allen Homes, MHB Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn said during a meeting Wednesday morning.
The 292-unit housing complex north of downtown has been vacant and boarded up for some time, which has affected funding from the federal department through “historically low” occupancy rates, but Vaughn told board members they recently got HUD permission to sell the property.
Vaughn told board members if the property doesn’t sell they would petition HUD once again to allow demolition of the complex, in order to boost those occupancy rates.
Bids for the property will go out in about 30 to 60 days, once a new appraisal is completed, Vaughn said. The property was last appraised in 2011. The property would be open to commercial or other development, he said.
“The property would be offered for public sale,” Vaughn wrote in an email message, following the meeting. “There would be no restrictions on who could bid. The bidding process would be open to all, for whatever purpose the buyer deemed appropriate.”
Vaughn added that HUD would have no future interest in the property once the sale is finalized.
When asked if there was any chance the current structures at the Josephine Allen complex could be rehabbed by a developer, Vaughn said “they’ll have to come down.” That means any future buyer would most likely have to demolish the complex, before building anything new.
There were no updates on a similar demolition request for the Roger Williams community, but Vaughn did tell board members “it’s on a faster track than Josephine Allen.”
After the meeting, Vaughn said those two properties make up 55 percent of MHB’s vacancies and getting those properties off the books would mean a 17-point increase in the occupancy rates.
Vaughn also announced that MHB had been awarded two Choice Neighborhood grants from HUD for planning work at Roger Williams and communities on the city’s southside, including R.V. Taylor Plaza, Thomas Jane and Boykin Tower.
One grant will pay for community meetings to publicize a massive revitalization project in the communities in the southern corridor. The other will be fund planning meetings related to the future of the neighborhood in and around the Roger Williams community, Vaughn said.
In other business, the board voted on a contract with the Mobile Police Department to provide security services at various public housing neighborhoods for an amount not to exceed $207,500. In addition to paying for a larger MPD presence in public housing communities, the contract also allows MHB to use police resources for background checks of housing applicants.
The board also approved a resolution to allow MHB to send its Section 8 Management Assessment Program to HUD. The fiscal year 2014 assessment will show HUD that MHB is a high-performing system, Housing Choice voucher program analyst Jeremy White said.
“Based on HUD’s criteria, we have met 145 to 150 points of certification,” White told the board.
After the meeting, Vaughn said the assessment is a grading system that takes into account factors such as utilization of funds and on-time payments to landlords.