HUD postpones plan to require photo IDs of apartment tenants


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has put on hold plans to photograph tenants at Woodside Gardens apartments in Annapolis for a controversial new identification card system.

Ina Singer, director of multifamily housing at HUD's Maryland office, said yesterday the management at the complex would be barred from photographing residents until tenants and managers discuss the plan.

The HUD directive came three days after the management company ordered all residents age 6 and older to receive customized ID cards. Residents were to be photographed today, but HUD intervened at the request of city and federal officials.

Tenants will decide whether to accept the ID card plan when they meet Thursday with management, police, HUD officials and city leaders. HUD would prohibit the ID plan if residents oppose it, Ms. Singer said. HUD officials plan to ask tenants to form an association to represent them in decisions at the 144-unit federally assisted housing complex.

Alpha Property Management Inc., based in Dallas, argues that the cards help rid housing complexes of loiterers, trespassers and suspicious outsiders. Management said off-duty police officers who patrol Woodside Gardens would not ask to see the ID cards without a specific reason.

But many residents were offended that the plan was imposed without their input and called the IDs an affront to their privacy. The ID checks, they said, would make the neighborhood seem like a police state.

Last night, Alpha posted a notice canceling all photo appointments and asking all tenants to attend next week's meeting.

Bryan Miller, the assistant regional supervisor who first suggested the cards be used at the Annapolis complex, said drug crime has dropped at Woodside Gardens since Alpha took over in March 1993. Alpha has successfully used the cards on five of its other properties, he said.

"We'd like to have this in all our communities," Mr. Miller said. "I feel very strongly toward it."

"I feel real confident that we'll be able to work this out," he said. "I've heard from my manager and staff members they haven't had any negative input on this."

To some residents, however, the ID idea is all but dead.

Elizamae Robinson, 62, who led the state's largest rent strike in 1976 at Woodside Gardens, was planning to boycott the new ID card system. Ms. Robinson said there is no support for the security plan.

"It's impossible to say who is a trespasser and who isn't, who belongs and who doesn't," she said.

HUD officials said the ID cards do not violate any federal regulations, but any change in house rules in a federally supported complex must be approved by the tenants. The federal government can block any house rules tenants deem objectionable, HUD officials said.

The ID cards are not used in any of the more than 700 federally insured housing developments in Maryland, although four public housing family high-rises in Baltimore use them, HUD officials said.

"Baltimore City high-rises have been using these photo IDs for many years, and it's never been a problem," said Otelia Lynch Davis, acting chief attorney of the housing and consumer law unit for the Legal Aid Bureau in Baltimore. "This is for safety," she said. "I wouldn't see it as an imposition."

But Ward 5 Alderman Carl O. Snowden, whose district includes Woodside Gardens, said the security plan stands little chance of being implemented because of the way it was introduced.

"Whether photo IDs work or not is a moot point," he said. "The program never would have gotten off the ground if it never got input or support from residents."

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