In the recent commentary, "HABC: Selling off and selling out" (May 1), a great deal of speculation was offered regarding the Housing Authority of Baltimore City's (HABC) participation in the new federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. RAD is the federal government's program to preserve otherwise at-risk public housing for very low-income residents.
The federal government has under-funded the public housing program for years, which has resulted in the need for $800 million (in Baltimore alone) of work on HABC's 11,000 units. This is a national problem and as a result, over 10,000 public housing units are lost annually. HABC's mission and primary goal is to provide safe and affordable housing for over 25,000 very low-income households throughout Baltimore City. Unfortunately, there continues to be a significant unmet need for affordable housing, and the resources to meet this need continue to decline.
We understand the concerns of residents and employees and are working hard to address each of them. RAD gives HABC a much needed lifeline for the preservation and renovation of over 4,000 of HABC's public housing apartments. Most importantly, it ensures that all existing residents will continue to live in their buildings. It preserves virtually all public housing resident rights. RAD protections, which are very similar to those in public housing, mandate long-term affordability. These protections appear in the RAD statute and HABC's Long Term Affordability standards, which are public documents.
HABC has had an on-going dialogue with all the groups involved. The agency first met with resident leadership and advocates in 2012. We have held meetings at every affected building to discuss the program and its impact. Multiple meetings have also been held with HABC's staff and their union representatives to explore options to minimize the impact on those employees. We will continue to meet with everyone involved to ensure an on going dialogue.
The federal government is changing how it funds affordable housing programs. We must change with it or lose thousands of homes for Baltimore's most vulnerable residents. It would be irresponsible for HABC to pass up the opportunities provided by RAD.
Paul T. Graziano, Baltimore
The writer is executive director of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.
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