MARC GARMAN - EDITOR

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Problems with Subsidized

 

 

Housing?

 

 

Unleash the Schussel

 

 

Foreword by Marc Garman

4/2/13

 

ROEM Corporation is on a mission to buy Seabreeze Apartments in South Vallejo. They intend to convert the 184 unit apartment building into a 100% subsidized housing complex. The complex is currently a mix of market rate and subsidized units. There is concern that the conversion to 100% subsidized will create conditions similar to those in other complexes which have experienced problems with crime and violence. Those of us who live here have all seen the problems that can be created by poor planning and decisions around subsidized developments. VIB special correspondent Robert Schussel has been working tirelessly to research the pitfalls of ROEM's proposed plan and explore best practices and alternative ideas. He recently met with Dr. Stephan Betz Ph.D, Assistant Director of Health and Social Services for Solano County and Michael Lane, Policy Director, Non-Profit Housing. Both Lane and Betz were able to make suggestions to improve the way Vallejo handles these type of developments.

 

Below is a letter from Schussel to Craig Whittom, Vallejo Assistant City Manager and Guy Ricca, Senior Community Development Analyst that outlines the main suggestions. Sometimes it takes a little dogged relentless persistence from a citizen to get City Staff to take a look at new ideas. Or as we say around VIB headquarters when the City Hall bureaucracy gets too thick: “Unleash the Schussel!”

 

 



 

Requirements to approve TEFRA Hearing

 

Mr. Whittom and Mr Ricca

I read the response of Jonathan Emami , Vice President ,ROEM Corporation to questions raised by myself and others about the TEFRA hearing for the Seabreeze Apartments. To be blunt their response was totally worthless as no specifics were given. Instead a trust us we "have a proven track record" was provided..


Mr Ricca you said that Vallejo has other successful fully subsidized housing (for those under 65) such as Avian Glen Apartments, Sereno Village and 201 Maine. I might point out that all of them have been very problematic. Accepting the applicants word that they will do the right thing has turned out to be a disaster for Vallejo.


Before Staff (with sign off from the City Manager) recommends approval of the TEFRA hearing you need to include the following as conditions of approval. The below conditions of approval are based on discussions with Stephan Betz PhD., Assistant Director, Solano County Health and Social Services and Michael Lane, Policy Director , Non Profit Housing. Dr Betz shared his perceptions of successful projects in San Francisco and Contra Costa County with me and Mr. Lane discussed what are the types of residential programs members of his organization typically provide. These are not pie in the sky conditions but rather what a well run project should provide.


1) A full time Resident Services Coordinator(RSC) is needed to bring services on site They make sure residents are linked to services that they require (food stamps, computer classes, after school programs, health fairs, financial counseling, health insurance ,employment, domestic violence intervention, mental health services, substance abuse therapy, daycare, Head Start, coordination with various County programs/agencies etc.). RSC case load should not be more than is 40 to 60.


2) The residential services should be for the life of the property not just 10 years. "why abandon residents after 10 years ...their needs don't go away" {Michael Lane]


3) The residential services that will be offered should be clearly described . Changes to the mix should only be allowed with approval from Vallejo City Council. The services listed in #1 should be required .


4) The nonprofit partner and their role needs to be clearly stated. The Non Profit should not be allowed to run the project. The Non Profits role should be to provide/coordinate services. There should be a combined treasury with profits. This insures the For Profit and Non Profit share liability and that if one partner leaves monies are available for the project to continue.


5) A mix of subsidized and market rate units make for a healthier environment for all concerned. [my comment --Seabreeze should continue at 35% fair market] .


6) A Community Center is critical to this effort. Space is required for day care, after school programs ,computer classes and other courses for residents etc. If an appropriate Community center is not available on site, some of the bonds funds need to be spent on building a Community Center.


7) Seabreeze needs to become a Crime Free and Drug Free complex. Several other complexes in Vallejo have Crime/Drug Free contracts with their residences and so should Seabreeze.



It should be noted that a strong partnership with the Vallejo Police Department as well as with the County (to provide integrated services) are seen as critical.



Below are some other conditions that need to be met prior to recommending approval of the TEFRA Hearing.


1) ROEM open their books to prove that they can't be profitable if they have to pay property taxes.


2) An annual report be prepared by ROEM and presented to City Council that discusses calls for police services and residents' level of participation in each program being offered etc.



For too long Staff has rubber stamped these types of projects. Vallejo Citizens and complex residents have had to endure subsidized housing without appropriate services . We dont need another project that will become a drain/blight on our community. Your ignoring of the above conditions would suggest you are out of touch with the needs of our community and the apartment complex residents you say you are helping.


Robert Schussel PhD.