How You Can Help Lyman Terrace

2012/03/03 in Activism, Capitalism, Development, Economics, Gentrification, Holyoke, Lies, Lyman Terrace, Occupy, Poverty, Ward 1

PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD HAS BEEN EXTENDED

ANOTHER TWELVE DAYS UNTIL 4pm 3/23/2012.

A vital community.

As some of you may have heard, the Holyoke Housing Authority is planning to demolish Lyman Terrace through a HUD program called Demolition Disposition.

There are many reasons we should be organizing in opposition to this:

1. The land will be sold to private developers, NOT used to rehouse those displaced (privatization of public land).

2. Lyman Terrace is historical, it is the fifth oldest housing project in the US, the oldest one still in use. It has fall out shelters. Factory workers at the mills used to live here. It is a piece of Proletariat history that shouldn’t be undervalued.  For some historical background see here.

3. The relocation plan found in City Hall was woefully inadequate and said there would be no additional section 8 vouchers to help relocate “displacees”.

4. Tenants have been inadequately informed about this plan. Many have been told that they would be guaranteed section 8 vouchers.  There is no guarantee.

5. There does not exist a realistic study as to the cost-benefit of demolishing, disposing of property and relocating tenants versus maintaining Lyman Terrace. The plan appears to have one and only one purpose: To rid Holyoke of near 200 families and shift the burden from Holyoke Housing Authority to the state.

6. The Holyoke Housing Authority is planning on using the manipulative “cash for keys” (one time $5250.00) method to motivate and strip tenants of their legal rights to fight eviction in court by having them sign them away for cash.

7. The lack of section 8 vouchers, lack of secion 8 vacancies and the status of the displaced tenants (housing discrimination based on race, employment, disability, credit viability) will land a large number of the folks in hotel shelters or worse, homeless.

8. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors concerning the state of these structures.  In a recent city council public commentary a developer and private housing manager weighed in with stories of much older and larger buildings in Holyoke that have been restored after decades of neglect and vacancy as a testament to the viability of Lyman Terrace – especially since there have been some recent improvements, repairs, new roofs.  Visual inspection of a number of units show well functioning homes.  What has not been repaired falls on the Holyoke Housing Authority’s neglect since their plan has been for some time to get rid of their ”problem”.  With over $1.5 million budgeted to demolish (probably not near enough to do so) why not initiate a plan to restore these units one by one while seeking other grants to continue over time?  Or, a myriad of other options rather than demolish and leave an empty lot?  Holyoke has plenty of empty lots.

————– HOW YOU CAN HELP LYMAN TERRACE ————–

3/23/2012 3/7/2012 is the last date to submit public comment to the Office of Community Development.

PLEASE SUBMIT A PUBLIC COMMENT!

Public comments must pertain to 3 topics:

1. Historical significance of the buildings.
2. Failures in the Displacement-relocation plan.
3. Did the Holyoke Housing Authority publicize the plan Adequately?

Mail or hand deliver the Office of Community Development:

City of Holyoke
Office for Community Development
City Hall Annex Room 400
Holyoke, MA 01040

fax to: 413-322-5611
or email to: zoellera@ci.holyoke.ma.us

More general comments can also be sent directly to HUD (same deadline):

Bob Cwieka
Office of Public Housing Dep. of HUD
Thomas P. O’Neil Jr. Federal Building
10 Causeway St 3rd floor
Boston MA 0222-1092

or email at: robert_p._cwieka@hud.gov

It is most important that you contact the Office of Community Development and HUD but it does not need to stop there.  You can also cc: or send your comments to the mayor:

Mayor Alex Morse: morsea@ci.holyoke.ma.us or 413-322-5510

You can also cc: or send your comments to your city councilor, find yours here on the Holyoke City website.

6 responses to How You Can Help Lyman Terrace

  1. I’m curious about your source for item 3 & 7. My mom, who used to work for the HHA and is currently the Section 8 person at the Northampton HA claims that in situations like this, tenants are prioritized for vouchers. They are not put in the Section 8 list with the general population. Vouchers are guaranteed for all the tenants. I am pretty sure that it is illegal for the HHA to do a project like this without guaranteed relocation. What does the HHA say?

    • At times, officials have suggested they already had authorization for new vouchers. More recently, the HHA has verbally stated they will be seeking additional Section 8 vouchers & they expect to hear back from HUD about their availability at the same time that they hear back about approval for demolition funding. However, what was submitted in writing as part of the Environmental Review Report reads, “Because there will not be an additional federal allocation of Section 8 subsidies to accomodate those being relocated from Lyman Terrace, these resources will be restricted to those few Section 8′s that are turned in every year. It is important to note, therefore, that placement on the Section 8 Waiting List does not guarantee the receipt of a Section 8 Certificate. It is anticipated, in fact, that only a small percentage of relocatees will be rehoused using this resource.”

      Also, a HHA official verbally described the portable Section 8 vouchers to be issued as “permanent,” but there is no such thing. Later, another HHA official said the portable Section 8 vouchers would be valid for “as long they’re needed and people continue to qualify” (paraphrase), which is a bit more credible, but it belies the description of actual experiences of relocatees under previous programs. Previous relocatees have describd using their new Section 8 vouchers successfully for two years before finding assistance cancelled & going back to the bottom of waiting lists — I believe this was because after two years, a percentage of LI housing had been rebuilt, so an offset number of those vouchers were forced to retire unless a new host municipality was willing to take them over. Check the math for replacement unit #’s & new voucher #’s described here, for example: http://www.fhlbboston.com/communitydevelopment/profiles/churchill/housing_authority.jsp Please note also that Murphy’s description reflects accurately the experience of those who left with empty promises of reoccupancy after the rebuild — prior tenants were in fact largely excluded from reoccupancy, and this exclusion was accomplished be design despite all claims & promises made to tenants before demo occurred. This time, the risks are even higher because there is no rebuild plan.

      Finally, consider how difficult portable Section 8′s can be to use & to hang onto in practice. Too few rental units are available now (worsened greatly by the loss of hundreds of units in the region after the tornadoes/floods and after several fires & property closings in Holyoke over the last couple of years, and worsened by the foreclosure crisis); too few of those properties meet HUD guidelines for using a Section 8′s. Section 8 users (and people for whom English is a second language and those with children) also face illegal discrimination, but with 120 days to vacate, they won’t have time to win legal cases without losing their assistance in the meantime (and if they try to leave prior the 120 day period, they’re ineligible for assistance). The few tenants who wish to take a portable Section 8 out of western Mass could be in luck, but reality is that most of those who want to stay in their home community, where they have extended families and other social networks, where they have kids in schools, where they have pedestrian-friendly access to medical providers, job services, adult ed, child care, public transportation, etc, those tenants cannot/will not be accommodated here, even if the vouchers materialize.

      • Those who are interested in further background, can also check:

        http://places.designobserver.com/feature/housing-chicago-cabrini-green-to-parkside-of-old-town/32298/

        Across the nation since the 1990s (when a bubble/house-of-cards economy had unemployment at record lows), public low income housing has been demolished in far greater numbers than got rebulit. That was just in time for economic catastrophe & increasing needs for assistance. One thing that makes the current situation with Lyman Terrace a little different than Cabrini-Green in Chicago (or many other projects), is that the design of much of the latter was high-rise towers & superblocks with common entrances (so police observers couldn’t see who was going where), long shared hallways where residents never knew what they’d be faced with around a corner or when an apartment or elevator door opened (when the elevators were working), and little good access to well-supervised outdoor play areas for children. Lyman Terrace’s design is just the opposite & has so many features worthy of preservation. Another difference is location — LT is so well-situated for access for the very services people need to stablize their lives, instead of being marginalized away from city center. And this time, demo is being applied for with no specific rebuild plan even available to evaluate. Further info about the design of LT can be read here: http://holyokemass.com/2012/02/22/fine-living-quarters-for-holyoke/

      • As I said to City Council last month, I believe the HHA has about as much credibility on the possibility for repairing/renovating/maintaining/managing Lyman Terrace as the Catholic diocese has on the state of Mater Dolorosa’s steeple. I hope a truly independent structural assesment and comparative estimates with comprehensive cost-benefit analyses can be made for multiple options, including renovations/repairs and demo/rebuild to a specified plan before a final decision is made. I also hope that regardless of whether or not demo occurs, better management, better policing, better maintenance & repairs will happen. Despite a diversity of opinions for how best to go forward, the one thing I believe everyone can agree on is that current conditions are unacceptable. I also believe that given the diversity of opinions, there are better ways to accomodate more myriad goals & needs for both the short & the long term future and for the existing tenants as well as the surrounding community. One really obvious solution would be to provide Section 8 vouchers to those tenants who want to leave, and use those vacancies to begin rolling renovations/repairs. And develop a strong, independent Tenants Association (one of the features the HA boasts of in its history of the newer Churchill homes but hasn’t done for its existing developments) to work collaboratively for solutions.

      • Thanks Susan & Pronob for the info and bringing attention to the issue. It seems that the HHA has gone into this with a plan already in mind and are only asking for public input now that attention has been brought to the issue. In that sense a victory has already been won. I hope the tenants will use your research to advocate for themselves to the HHA. As a non-resident of Lyman Terrace, I don’t feel comfortable writing letters on their behalf. I believe more impact would be had from the residents themselves.

    • Jeremy, Susan cites the report which you can see for yourself by visiting city hall. I recommend it.

      Will you be writing a letter?

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