The Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners on Wednesday morning approved, by a 4-1 margin, an agreement with the city for help on longterm planning and redevelopment of a number of public housing complexes.

Going forward the board will pay $16,500 per month for salaries and fees and be given access to federal grants awarded to the city, attorney Raymond Bell told commissioners. The funding would help with planning, redevelopment, renovation and rehabilitation of structures, Bell said.
“In all candor, this was a late Christmas gift,” he said. “[Senior Director of Community Housing and Development] Jamie [Roberts] called and said ‘I’ve got some money, I’ve got some ideas ….”

The grants in question total $2.5 million to $3 million for the first year and come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME and Community Development Block Grant programs, Roberts said. There would be more funding available in the following years, in the $1 to $2 million range, Bell said.

The agreement would give the city more access to public housing in need and increase the “sphere of influence,” Roberts told commissioners.

“What you’ve got access to is so much bigger than what we have access to,” he said.

Roberts and his department would develop a master plan as part of the agreement, but commissioners would have the final say on its implementation, Bell said. In addition, the agreement can be terminated with a 60-day notice.

Commissioner Norman Hill, who said he’d only been given the agreement Wednesday morning and hadn’t had time to read it, seemed a bit skeptical of the city’s intentions.

“I have some concerns about the arms-length relationship between us and the city,” Hill said. “I’m concerned about the relationship at this point in time.”

Hill added that he was unsure of the implications of the agreement on the board.

“The city’s not going to just giving us $3 million,” he said.

Hill was the only commissioner to vote in opposition of the agreement.

While there is no official approval needed from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the agreement, the Mobile City Council will have to approve it.

“There hasn’t been any pushback,” Bell said, regarding council approval. “I don’t see any reason why it would not sail through.”

In other business Commissioner Reid Cummings stepped down as vice chairman of the board. During its November meeting, the board will elect a new vice chair.