NEWARK, NJ – Officials of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) met with Newark Housing Authority staff this past week to officially remove the agency from the federal “troubled” status list.
Every housing authority nationwide is extended a grade based on performance measurements, which include its financial condition, management of operations, condition of its housing stock and management of capital improvement funds.
The Newark Housing Authority was declared “troubled” for failing to meet a public housing program passing score for the years 2016 and 2017, which prompted a change in executive administration.
The Board of Commissioners selected a new executive director in late 2017 to address the shortcomings.
Executive Director Victor Cirilo went to work and cut back administrative expenditures by $9 million, put more than 350 units back on line through a working agreement with labor unions, increased rent collection to 98% and oversaw a 30% decrease in bad debt write-offs.
This activity took place in 2018, which resulted in a passing score for the fiscal year. The 2019 review is not yet complete but the Housing Authority is confident of a more significant improvement.
“This has been a team effort which includes staff, residents, stakeholders and the community,” Cirilo said. “There is always a lot more work to do and we cannot forget our responsibilities outside of the realms of measurements, more specifically in the areas of customer service and curb appeal.”
The Newark Housing Authority is divided into three distinct operations. The Public and Mixed Income Housing Program, which comprises of more than 7,500 units; the Housing Choice Voucher Program, with its more than 6,000 units and already a high performer under HUD; and its Redevelopment and Asset Preservation Division.
After finding an agency to be in “troubled” status, HUD intervenes and requires agencies to go through a series of assessments. Ultimately an improvement decree is entered into between the Board of Commissioners, the Mayor of the particular jurisdiction and HUD.
“We applaud the Housing Authority’s efforts to improve its delivery of services,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “It shows an enhanced positive impact in the lives of residents in need and helps build a more empowered and equitable city. Everyone deserves a decent, safe and affordable place to live.”
In addition to improving its public housing score, the Housing Authority is also shifting its focus to develop large scale affordable housing in light of the $6 billion in private real estate investment experienced by the City of Newark.
The objective is to assure that affordable housing options remain after expected private investment. In collaboration with Prudential Real Estate Financing, the Housing Authority is also currently recapitalizing over 1,100 existing public housing units under a new HUD preservation program, which will raise over $30 million dollars in rehabilitation funds.