Chandler housing plan stirs citizens' opposition - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler housing plan stirs citizens’ opposition

August 1st, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler housing plan stirs citizens’ opposition
Community
2

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

The City of Chandler is looking to increase the amount of public housing units it has available and seeking innovative ways to pay for it.

But some residents in the community are worried about the project and have started a petition drive to stop it.

The city currently has 303 units available through the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development department for public use. Almost all of the people living in those units have jobs and are paying 30 percent of their monthly income in rent.

But that’s not near enough to keep up with demand in a city where the cost of renting an apartment continues to soar, city officials say.

The last time the city opened up its wait list for public housing nearly a year ago, it received 2,000 applications before closing the list again.

The city is taking the first step toward building a new 157-unit facility at Trails End through a public-private partnership. City officials say they need to partner with private groups because it is the only way to maintain their current units.

That has alarmed some residents.

“We think that it’s admirable the city is interested in helping the homeless people, especially veterans and seniors,” said Les Mincus, who lives in South Chandler. “We’re not willing to accept an agreement with HUD or any other federal departments, because the feds will likely allow illegal aliens, foreign or domestic terrorists, or convicted felons to live there.”

Mincus has started a petition drive to urge city officials to refuse to get involved with the federal government.

The city is turning in an application to HUD to be part of its Rental Assistance Demonstration program. Congress approved that program in 2012 to preserve and improve the nation’s public housing facilities.

“The age of these properties and the amount of federal funding that is available are not sustainable in the long term,” said Amy Jacobson, the city’s housing and redevelopment manager. “The public housing multi-family units in Chandler are facing an estimated $22 million in needed capital investment and repairs over the next 20 years at a time when there is a $7.5 million deficit in federal funding to maintain those units.”

Most of the city’s public housing units were built in 1972 and have significant plumbing and electrical issues that need to be addressed. City officials said they have more than $7 million of short-term needs that have to be addressed.

The city’s plan to improve public housing begins with the application.

It then hopes to reach a development agreement with a private company to build Trails End. Once that is built, it would then move people living in current public housing that needs repair into the new facility.

The new facility would look similar to a modern multi-housing apartment building.

Then, they would hope to demolish those buildings and build a new complex that could host more families.

But that is far in the future and details have not been worked out. The first step, approving the application to HUD, was taken on July 14th when the City Council approved it.

“We are working with a developer at this time in negotiations,” Jacobson said.

She said this is not necessarily your traditional home builder, noting builders could make far more renting units to the public.

“It’s in their mission to do this type of transaction with housing authorities that are transitioning out of public housing into the Section 8, project-based platform,” Jacobson said.

“They’ve had experience, they’ve done this type of project, they’ve worked on this type of financing, they’ve gone through the HUD approval process, through the RAD program, that’s the reason why we are wanting a development partner, to go through that process with us in a public place.”

Leah Powell, the city’s neighborhood resources director, said the need is growing with rents increasing so much in Chandler.

“We have a growing population of seniors who are about to be displaced, or have become displaced,” Powell said. “I got a briefing from staff before I came this evening.

“We have three seniors right now that are going to be displaced by the end of August. Every one of those seniors has a Section 8 voucher, but they can’t find places to live that they can afford.”

Mincus said he supports trying to help the people who need it, but doesn’t like the idea of becoming tied to the federal government.

He said he and his supporters already have filled several pages of his petition and he hopes to get thousands more signatures. He said the petitions will be submitted to city leaders right before the election.

“They are busing illegal aliens up from the border,” Mincus said. “The citizens of Chandler do not want this.”

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