MERIDEN — The demolition of the Mills Memorial Apartments public housing development leaves the Meriden Housing Authority supervising only two properties: Johnson Farms in South Meriden and Community Towers.
As a result, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has changed the status of the housing authority.
”Now that we don’t have the Mills, we’re now a small housing authority,” said Neil Ivers, chairman of the MHA Board of Directors. “We’re basically redoing Yale Acres. They’re going to be out of the portfolio. Maynard Road presumably will be doing the maintenance.”
Maynard Road Corp. is the development arm of the Meriden Housing Authority which bids for development opportunities on MHA and other properties. Maynard Road employs maintenance workers, and solar panel installers, geo-thermal technicians and supervisors.
“Meriden will still manage its own voucher program in Meriden,” said HUD spokeswoman Rhonda Sicillano. “Housing authorities are allowed to hire contractors to manage voucher programs and are not required to have their own staffed-up department. HUD does not require any particular staffing structure for public housing either, but the Meriden Housing Authority is responsible to ensure that all project-based voucher and public housing units that HUD funds in relationship to its contract with Meriden Housing Authority are operated in compliance with federal law and regulation.”
Johnson Farms is a 52-unit state subsidized, moderate income housing development on Cheshire Road, New Cheshire Road and Village Lane in South Meriden. Community Towers consists of two 11-story buildings with 221 total units of federally subsidized housing for elderly and disabled people on Willow Street downtown.
As the Meriden Housing Authority sheds maintenance and administrative staff at its dwindling properties, Maynard Road Corp. is getting bigger.
There are no immediate plans for layoffs but they’re coming, Ivers said. Many of the jobs can move to Maynard Road as work progresses at Yale Acres, a 162-unit MHA property between Broad Street and Wall Street which Maynard Road is set to redevelop.
“The shifting busiess has always been the MHA’s intention, so we knew this was going to happen,” Ivers said. “We want to be more agile. HUD procedures are restrictive. This will allow us to be more agile to do more and better housing so we do what we can to improve housing in the area.”
The disposition of Community Towers is now underway, with discussions centered on obtaining a needs assessment on the 221-unit towers. According to Ivers, a partnership could be formed to renovate and manage the 50-year-old towers..
The new housing models leverage tax credits, HUD subsidies and other sources of financing and unit types in one development.
A housing authority is not eligible to apply for tax credits on its own so often will have another entity that is a different business organization, either a non-profit or for-profit entity, that it partners with to do mixed finance projects, Sicillano said.
“Housing authorites can also be more financially stable when outsourcing management because they are relieved of costs of staffing,” Sicillano said. “It is common in mixed-finance developments.”