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Public-housing dispute


THE ANNAPOLIS Housing Authority is getting a bad rap.

Critics are firing away at Executive Director Patricia Holden Croslan, although federal reports demonstrate clearly that she has improved the city's 10 public-housing complexes.

One tirade came during a forum last month sponsored by the Anne Arundel County NAACP. The accusers blamed Ms. Croslan for trash and maintenance woes.

Too bad Ms. Croslan wasn't invited to defend her record.

She might have pointed out the solid fiscal and physical progress the housing authority has made since she took over that poorly run operation 3 1/2 years ago.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development credits her with saving the authority from bankruptcy. She boosted the authority's financial rating.

At its low point in 1997, the Annapolis housing agency was listed by HUD as "troubled."

It got a score of 45 out of a possible 100.

Yet 18 months after Ms. Croslan took over -- June 1999 -- the housing agency earned a superlative score of 97.

Does that mean the quality of life in Annapolis public housing is blissful? Hardly. But that's not the point.

Public housing developments are like golfers with monstrously huge handicaps. They have every disadvantage you can image. Most of the buildings are old and outdated; poverty is overwhelming; hope is almost nonexistent; and the problems are usually shoved into society's corners, hidden from the mainstream.

Annapolis is a small city, but its public housing has some of the difficulties found in Baltimore, Chicago and New York, at least when investments aren't made to improve housing stock.

Ms. Croslan is balancing the books while patching buildings, some of which are nearly 60 years old.

It's good that HUD has identified aging buildings as a problem that must be addressed. Maybe this will lead to more money for replacement units.

Annapolis public housing doesn't need a prolonged fight against an executive director who has improved the agency's books. It needs a concerted effort by residents and administrators to get better, newer and more dispersed public housing. That fight has yet to begin.

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