Housing authority updates city leaders

Published 10:48 pm Thursday, September 6, 2018

City Council on Wednesday heard about efforts by the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority to create a new strategic plan, rebrand itself and rehabilitate some of its communities.

Authority officials made the presentation in the City Council work session to make introductions and seek support. Community Development Director Lysandra Shaw provided an overview of the public housing properties and introduced the rehabilitation plans.

“We want to focus on our distressed properties, which are the Cypress Manor and Parker Riddick properties,” Shaw said. “We are using a lot of capital to keep them up to standards.”

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Last week at the Board of Commissioners meeting, the board voted to rehabilitate portions of the housing and demolish other parts to allow them to reconstruct a new vision of public housing. The board does not know the ratio of rehabilitation to new construction currently, but that will be decided during the planning process, according to Executive Director Tracey Snipes.

“We will start creating a vision for that site,” Shaw said.

The two communities are located off Davis Boulevard in the downtown area.

The SRHA wants to create a vibrant and diverse community within the new housing properties, and they hope to do so through a mix of incomes and a mix of uses.

The SRHA has also gone through some rebranding with its website, logo and motto. The key theme represents change and hope.

The new motto is “Changing housing. Changing minds. Changing lives.”

“It is just three simple statements, but there is so much there,” Snipes said.

The authority has also agreed upon new strategic goals and priorities to accomplish in the next three years.

The first goal is to increase the authority’s funding and diversify its funding sources. According to Snipes, the authority is still working on a business plan to solidify funding goals.

In keeping with its new motto, one of the authority’s other goals is to increase the number of individuals and families that become self-sufficient. This goal is harder to measure than financial goals.

“This is a broad goal, because everyone describes it in a different way. For some, it means moving out of public housing, but for others, it means paying the rent on time,” Snipes said. “We are working on how we will measure this goal, because everyone’s definition is not the same.”

The final goal of the three is to expand the authority’s activities and lead efforts to develop a range of housing options. By 2021, the SRHA wants to be recognized as a leader in public housing.

Those on the City Council were happy to hear the new plans that were brought to their attention, and some learned more about the authority.

“You are attempting to raise people up, and that is the ultimate goal in life,” said Mayor Linda T. Johnson.

Councilman Mike Duman admitted he wasn’t aware of everything the SRHA does.

“I didn’t realize the scope of work and your goals and how you affect the people in Suffolk besides housing,” Duman said. “This is new to me, and I’m appreciative of your role and the quality of life you provide.”