By Shelterforce Posted on December 24, 2010
To the Editor:
I received your latest issue (Spring 2010) with its featured focus “Organizing After ACORN” and read it this morning before coming into work. I, more than most, realize that this is not a comfortable theme, but I thought y’all did a good job of producing something that was thoughtful, engaging, and challenging.
And, since so much of the theme of this issue was confronting attacks not with cowardice but courage, congratulations for showing some.
PS. It was great to see Lake Charles leader Mary Howard’s picture on the cover as well. I was at that rally in Baton Rouge on the capitol steps as part of the demand for prevailing wages in the recovery. It’s one of those pictures that speaks millions of words and comes with both sweat and tears.
To the Editor:
The last issue of Shelterforce (Spring 2010) was superb. It was a hard look at community organizing, from the inside, and really raised the key questions, and provided some solid empirical evidence on it. Putting the stories on ACORN, Cleveland, and London together, it raised a big question that has to be confronted in dealing with mortgage foreclosures: We want both to move militantly and politically and with strong organization against the banks and to some extent the government, but we also want to remove as much of housing as we can from the speculative market, with CLTs [community land trusts] seeming a good vehicle for that purpose. So the not-so-new tensions between community development activities and militant organizing come to the fore again. The articles are very enlightening on the problem.
New York, N.Y.
To the Editor:
Concerning HUD’s PETRA proposal [as discussed in the Summer 2010 issue]: As others have noted, HUD has not yet provided numbers to show how the PETRA proposal would work for a sample of real public housing developments. HUD claims that the PETRA proposal will preserve public housing better than the existing public housing capital program. HUD should provide the numbers to prove it.
Converting some public housing developments to a project-based Section 8 subsidy might be a workable solution for developments that are in reasonably good condition now and have low backlog needs.
But HUD claims that PETRA would also be the solution for developments with high backlog needs. HUD also wants PHAs to upgrade their developments to attract a mixed-income clientele.
HUD should provide the numbers for a sample of typical family public housing developments with above-average backlog needs showing what the backlog needs are now, how much it would cost to bring those developments up to modest mixed-income standards, how much the PHA would have to borrow to address those needs, and what the resultant annual debt service would be.
HUD should then show that the project-based subsidy that would be provided under PETRA would be adequate to cover the PHA’s operating costs, utilities, debt service, and a reasonable contribution to a reserve—assuming that rental income for that development remains the same.
I think that for at least half of the existing public housing stock, PHAs could not fully cover those costs under HUD’s PETRA proposal.
It might be possible to have a transition period during which some developments were converted to PETRA, at the PHA’s option, while funding for the public housing capital program was continued at a relatively high level (e.g. $4 billion per year) to address the needs of the rest of the public housing stock until such other developments are in good enough condition to be converted to PETRA.
But the administration wants to put a cap on domestic discretionary spending and has proposed cutting the public housing capital fund to $2 billion in the next fiscal year. I do not understand how those numbers add up make PETRA a realistic proposal for preserving the public housing stock.
~Wayne Sherwood,Takoma Park, Md.