After residents and HABC workers held a Speak-Out in front of HABC on June 11th, HABC agreed to maintain ownership of the land under the buildings, and to issue long-term ground leases to the developers. They also agreed to hold a “Technical/Finance Work Group” for residents, advocates, and attorneys who represent resident interests. But they have not followed through on promises and residents are no closer to getting answers.
This meeting was scheduled for 7/29/14 and cancelled by HABC the day before. It was rescheduled for 8/5/14 and cancelled again. Residents are still waiting to get a reschedule date. In the meantime, HABC continues to meet only with the Resident Advisory Board, which operates as part of HABC.
Residents continue to have concerns about long-term affordability of the RAD affected buildings, which Housing Commissioner Graziano has refused to answer in resident meetings at Bernard E Mason Senior Apartments. Karen Wabeke, attorney at the Homeless Persons Representation Project, an invited guest of residents was also silenced when she attempted to ask these questions. Several weeks later, a journalist invited by residents to a resident meeting at Bel Park Tower was told by HABC Communications Director Sharon Porter that she could not record the meeting.
Questions that HABC refuse to answer include the following:
**Housing Authority says they will NOT be selling the land, only the buildings, and that they will be issuing long-term ground leases to the developers for use of the land, but they say this move is largely “symbolic.”
- When will we see this in writing?
- What will be the terms of the long-term (99 year) leases with developers?
- Is HABC going to leverage the fact that they will own the land to impose affordability requirements on the developers in years 40-99 of the lease, after RAD affordability criteria expire?
- Can the public participate in determining those affordability requirements on the developers to maintain permanent affordability of the buildings? If so, how? If not, why?
- What will be HABC’s role as the land owner and minority partner?
- What will HABC’s role be with landlord/tenant issues? Will legal landlord/tenant issues be handled by HABC or property managers?
**Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano says ”Obviously, the thinking is that we’d buy back the buildings.” The terms of the RAD contracts are 15 years for a Project Based Voucher (PBV), and 20 years for a Project Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) program. HABC is waiting to see if they get a waiver from HUD in order to go with PBRA. It is a requirement of the RAD program that these contracts automatically renew for one cycle, bringing the contracts to 30 or 40 years, respectively. HABC says that they will have a “first right of refusal” to purchase the buildings back after these contracts are up.
- What is the word from HUD on the waiver? Will HABC be using PBV or PBRA?
- What is the plan to purchase back the buildings?
- How will HABC be able to afford to purchase 22 high-rise buildings in a two year span if they cannot even afford to maintain them now?
- Is there a fund being put in place to save for this purchase?
- What will determine the future buy-back price for the buildings? Will it be strictly based on market forces?
**HABC says that tenant associations or their designees will have a “secondary right” to purchase the buildings if developers and HABC decline at the end of the contracts.
- When will we see this in writing?
- How will the purchase price be determined in 40 years? Strictly by market forces?
- How will these rights be documented and can we see them?
- How will a buy-back work when there is a ground lease in place?
**Tenants as “Third Party Beneficiaries”
- Will tenants have standing (right and ability) as “third parties” to file lawsuits (without HABC) requiring new building owners to comply with rules negotiated?
- How will HABC and/or developers memorialize the tenant status as third party beneficiaries and how will that be documented?
*What is the mechanism by which HABC is going to ensure “permanent affordability” as Housing Commissioner Graziano keeps assuring residents. “Permanent affordability” appears nowhere in writing in the RAD regulations, so how will HABC be doing this?