VOL. 110 | NO. 71 | Wednesday, April 10, 1996
4/10 jts MHA building
MHA accepts proposals for renovations
Agency plans overhaul of six developments
By JAMES SNYDER
The Daily News
In the face of cuts in federal funding, the Memphis Housing Authority is accepting proposals to renovate six public housing projects as the agency looks at overhauling more.
The six developments are 128 units at Cypruswood, 120 at Horn Lake, 80 at Hawkins Mill, 100 at Montgomery Plaza, 104 at Ford Road and 39 at Texas Court. The renovation will effect more than 500 families, said Jerome Ryans, the authoritys executive director.
All of the developments were leased housing at one time and were bought by the authority in the 1960s and 70s as a substitute for building new housing.
"Years have gone by and they have not had any modernization, like a lot of our units in the city," Ryans said.
The cost estimate submitted to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development put the price for modernization of the six developments at more than $5 million, according to Richard Becker, a HUD program analyst in Nashville.
But now, the authoritys estimate exceeds the HUD grant slated to pay for it. The Comprehensive Grant Program, which funds a variety of authority projects including the six developments, allocated just more than $14 million, a 19 percent cut from the original $17 million grant the authority had applied for.
To make up for the difference, Ryans said the original job will have to resort to "deductive alternates."
"Well have to sit down and look at those areas we can afford to spend money on," he said. "Those we cant spend money on, we just wont be able to do."
Ryan remains adamant that MHA needs to improve development conditions for public housing residents. Nearly half of the developments have stood since before the Second World War, he said. Many were never intended to be permanent structures. Every development is in need of a complete overhaul, he said.
"Im just not sure the dollars are going to be there so we can completely renovate these units," Ryans said. "I think at some point in time were going to have to make some very serious decisions if the Congress continues to cut back HUD."
In addition to the latest cut in the Comp Grant, HUD faces more. While the HUD budget proposed for 1996 contains a 12 percent increase, the Comprehensive Grant Program is likely to take a hit of 10 percent to 13 percent, Becker said.
Thats in addition to the agencys most pressing problem, the endless continuing resolution that now funds the Comp Grant at just 40 percent of 1995 levels.
Memphis receives the largest amount of Comp Grant money in the state, Becker said. The grant money is based on a formula allocation, which makes money available based on need, like an entitlement program.
In the meantime, the authority has other plans on the books. By mid-month, the final contract for Dixie Homes will be executed, Ryans said.
With a $47 million Hope Six Revitalization grant, the development at LeMoyne Gardens will get a much-needed overhaul.
Hope Six also provided a $400,000 planning grant for renovations at Hurt Village, Lamar Terrace and Fowler Homes.
"Were hoping once we complete the plan there will be dollars to completely renovate those," Ryans said.
At the same time, Ryans must submit a plan to the authority board on Lauderdale Court, which would tear down 218 units in the development where Elvis Presley once lived.
But the Comp Grant and Hope Six are not the only federal assistance available to the local authority. HUD also sponsors a Drug Elimination program, a Vacancy Reduction program and an Apprenticeship Demonstration program which teaches construction skills in cooperation with the local carpenter and painter unions.
But in the face of shrinking funds and diminishing public sympathy, Ryans finds it difficult to provide good and safe housing for low-income residents.
"Were moving as fast as we can," Ryans said. "But sometimes we just dont seem like were moving fast enough."