Aurora Housing Authority approves second scattered-site housing plan in split decision
By Stephanie Lulay email@example.com February 6, 2014 7:00PM
The Brinshore-completed Lindsay Heights development in Milwaukee, Wis. will be "very similar" to Aurora's scattered-site project, according to AHA Executive Director Keith Gregory. | Aurora Housing Authority, submitted photo
Updated: March 8, 2014 6:39AM
AURORA — In a split vote, the Housing Authority Board narrowly approve a plan to move forward with a partnership that would see 40 more foreclosed homes rehabbed into affordable housing in the city.
The Phase Two agreement aims to add 40 affordable housing homes to the 40 the city, AHA and a development firm have already agreed to rehab, making way for 80 scattered-site rehabbed foreclosed homes in the city.
The Phase Two plan was approved by the board by a 3-2 vote. Aurora Housing Authority Board Vice Chairman Bill Powell, and board members Dave Richert and Scott Voris voted for the measure; board Chairman Henry Champen and board Secretary Mattie Coble voted against the measure.
AHA Executive Director Keith Gregory said that since the Housing Authority has decided to pursue the scattered-site redevelopment model, it was always the agency’s intent to pursue a second phase of development.
Champen, who voted against the measure, said he was open to compromise, but he felt that the city had taken too much “lead” on the Phase Two agreement.
“I think we should do some sort of development down at Jericho Circle. I know that some people think that it’s not going to work and there’s a stigma, and I feel differently,” Champen said.
Aurora Assistant Chief of Staff Rick Guzman said city officials were “a little surprised” that some AHA Board members opposed the move.
“Collaboration (between the city and) the AHA Board has been good and we feel like this is a win-win for the future residents of the newly-developed homes and the neighborhoods that are suffering from a decent number of foreclosures,” Guzman said.
In the meeting, Richert said he has some concerns about approving a Phase Two agreement without seeing how the first phase of the project turns out. Voris said he didn’t disagree, but that the second agreement would provide some “offense” against a recent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development finding concerning the AHA.
In December, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity found the Housing Authority in violation of the Civil Rights Act “and its duty to affirmatively further fair housing.” The finding followed a complaint from fair housing groups, who contended that the AHA’s decision to pursue another housing plan instead of rebuilding at the Jericho Circle site violates the Fair Housing Act.
The issue at hand in the complaint concerned the number of families on the AHA’s current waiting list and the type of people who would be served under different housing scenarios. The AHA and city disagree with the HUD findings.
Brinshore Development is now in the process of identifying foreclosed and abandoned homes in Aurora for the first phase of the project, Guzman said.
In January, City Council approved a first plan with the Aurora Housing Authority and Brinshore Development, LLC. That agreement made way for the city, AHA and Brinshore to develop an initial phase of affordable housing in the city.
Under the first phase, Northbrook-based Brinshore Development will purchase and rehab 40 foreclosed homes into affordable rental housing. The city will kick $524,000 in federal funds toward the first phase of the project. The city receives those federal dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Jericho right to return
The Phase Two agreement mimics much of the first agreement made between the Housing Authority, the city and Brinshore Development, a private, for-profit development firm. But there is one key difference under the agreement. The Phase Two agreement ensures that all former Jericho Circle residents will have the first right to occupy the Phase Two redeveloped homes if they so choose, commonly referred to as “right to return.”
Before the Jericho Circle housing complex was demolished in October 2012, the last 93 Jericho families living at the site received special Section 8 vouchers to relocate.
Under both agreements, AHA will not own or operate the new scattered-site housing. Instead, the Housing Authority will provide Section 8 housing choice vouchers to help subsidize the rents paid by the low-income residents.
AHA Board member Rey Cruz was not present at the meeting where the vote was taken. A seventh now-vacant spot on the board has not been filled by Mayor Tom Weisner, but Guzman said he expects an appointment to be announced soon.