Housing Complex Ordered To Address Residents' Concerns
June 08, 2010
The management of Chappelle Gardens, a 188-unit affordable housing complex in the North End, has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address a variety of concerns raised recently by residents.
In a letter sent to Chappelle Gardens Inc. last week, HUD said Chappelle is in default of the 1995 agreement that gave it ownership of the complex. HUD criticized Chappelle for only renting 23 of the 117 units that qualified for the Section 8 rental assistance program.
It also said Chappelle's procedures for applications and tenant selection were unsatisfactory.
HUD said that within 30 days Chappelle must: prove it has actively marketed vacant units, revise its policies for tenant selection and for appeals by those rejected, and make changes to its waiting list.
A group of residents at Chappelle has been drawing attention to a variety of problems, from what they say are improper elections for the board of directors to substandard maintenance and lack of HUD oversight.
After residents complained to HUD last year, a notice was sent around the Barbour Street complex telling residents to contact Chappelle management with problems.
"HUD cannot solve your problems, so stop calling them," the notice said.
Apparently, HUD thinks it can.
"HUD reassessed the situation and the repeated noncompliance and decided to issue the notice of default," a HUD spokeswoman said Monday in an e-mail.
Tara Parrish, a community organizer with Hartford Areas Rally Together who is working with residents, said two meetings have been held with representatives of U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, to encourage HUD to get more involved.
"This is the first proactive involvement by HUD in a very long time," Parrish said Monday.
In a second letter last week, HUD told Chappelle it needed to improve trash removal and outdoor lighting at the 22-acre complex.
Residents also have complained that they are not allowed to use the Ludella Williams Community Center, a $965,000 center named for Chappelle's longtime president. HUD said Chappelle must submit a plan to allow residents access to the center.
Williams has been president of Chappelle for about 15 years, even though its bylaws stipulate no one can hold the office for more than three years.
Williams declined Monday to talk about the HUD demands but said, "I'm going to speak to my lawyer because I'm getting sick of the harassment."
The residents group has been demanding a new election for the board of directors. Williams has said that an election will be held this month, but Parrish said residents are preparing to seek an injunction in federal court to make sure it is an open, fair election.
HUD did not address elections in its recent letters to Chappelle, but the agency spokesman said in an e-mail Monday that "HUD expects the ownership corporation to follow its own guidelines, bylaws, other organizational documents and HUD requirements while operating Chappelle Gardens."
The 1995 agreement between HUD and Chappelle included a 15-year plan to provide residents the opportunity to buy their apartments, beginning in September. Residents say they still have no idea how the condo conversion plan will work. Williams has said Chappelle's lawyer is preparing information, although it is not yet available.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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