The Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners on Oct. 10 approved by a 4-1 margin an agreement with the city for help with long-term 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 will 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. More funding will be available in the following years, in the $1 million to $2 million range, Bell said.
Specifically, the agreement will help the authority increase its capital funding, which has been an issue for years, Roberts said.
“The formal agreement puts in place the ability for us to align all the public money we get from HUD to the two public entities to help fix the issue with the housing board, which is a lack of capital investment,” he said. “Nobody is going to deny there’s an issue with capital properties. So what we’re doing is looking at the money we have available for developers and a little planning money also.”
The agreement also allows the city to help the authority assess its housing stock, which hasn’t occurred in a number of years, Roberts said.
Following an assessment would be a master plan, which would help the authority determine whether to redevelop properties or construct new ones. Back in March, the authority had 35 percent of its units unoccupied, Roberts said. That means there is funding left on the table when it comes to public housing.
“[HUD] says ‘you’ve got this many units online, you get that much money,’ but there’s a number they could get to that’s higher than that,” he said. “So, they’re leaving money on the table.”
The agreement should also help the authority whittle down a long waiting list for public housing.
As for the municipal side of things, the agreement would give the city more access to public housing in need and increase the “sphere of influence,” Roberts said.
Additionally, the deal could help the city secure more HUD funding when it comes to competitive grant applications in the future.
The initial agreement is for one year with several one-year renewal options. However, Roberts expects the time frame to replenish the city’s housing stock to take longer.
Hill was the only commissioner to vote in opposition of the agreement. While there is no official approval needed from HUD for the agreement, the Mobile City Council will have to approve it.