April 23, 2013
Potential changes to Charlottesville's public housing system have residents outraged.
Members of the Public Housing Association of Residents gathered outside City Hall on Monday to express their opposition to several recommended changes to the city's Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan.
They say they are fighting against higher late fees, increased pet fees and automatic eviction for four late rent payments, among other changes.
"These are extremely harsh measures for very little payoff for this housing authority, so we're very much opposed to those," said Brandon Collins of PHAR. "You're talking about some of the most vulnerable people on our community that will be affected by this, and it's going to create a crisis."
The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority is working on updating its ACOP, but members of PHAR say the proposed changes that are not mandatory would take a toll on residents.
"I feel bad not just for myself but all the residents in housing because they don't have the income to handle all this stuff," said Charlottesville resident Frances Washington.
Ahead of a final decision, residents are asking CRHA to consider the impact of implementing the measures. At its meeting Monday, the CRHA board of commissioners heard from about a dozen people asking them to forgo the potential changes.
"125 people paid their rent late four times last year. That's 125 people who, under this proposed policy, would be evicted. Are you prepared to evict 125 people?" Collins asked the board. "If so, you're going to have a very real problem."
Charlottesville attorney Jeff Fogel, who says eviction "seems to be the primary, underlying purpose of this," told the board ousting people from their homes raises even more questions.
"What happens when somebody in our community is evicted? The city will have to provide additional social services," Fogel told the housing authority. "What is the impact on children who are evicted? Will they be forced to change schools? Will they be able to change schools? What will the disruption cause in their life? What will be the impact on them for the rest of their life and on others as well?"
The housing authority is expected to vote in May.
The proposed changes come after a review by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which directed CRHA to create an updated ACOP.