Affordable housing is our goal too

November 09, 2003|by David Bryant

To the editor:

Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc. (POAH) agrees with the view of Linda Irving-Craig that "(a)s housing costs skyrocket, affordable housing crucial" (Opinion, Oct. 5).

In fact, our primary mission is to preserve affordable housing that is at risk of being converted into an unaffordable property.

Irving-Craig's opinion column raises important questions about the Washington Gardens Apartments that deserve to be answered. This response should alleviate any concerns that she or Hagerstown residents may have about the project, while highlighting the importance of projects such as this.


First, the prospective new owner of the property is not another version of the current owner. POAH is a national nonprofit organization founded by some of the nation's most seasoned practitioners of housing finance. POAH is proud of its track record of renovating and managing affordable housing.

It is a nationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to the acquisition, rehabilitation, development, and responsible long-term ownership of multi-family affordable-housing properties.

This housing forms the backbone of the affordable rental inventory throughout the country. POAH has purchased and renovated properties in Missouri, Michigan, and Massachusetts; received the "Nonprofit of the Year" award in Missouri in 2002 for its preservation work there; and has been selected to partner with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in its national preservation initiative.

Similarly, we are pleased to have been selected by the Fannie Mae Foundation to receive a grant of funds to support our current work and to develop new strategies and policy innovations to affect our long-term preservation objective.

Second, Washington Gardens was constructed in 1982 and was financed in part with a mortgage insured by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and a 20-year contract to provide rental assistance to income-qualified residents. The project has an excellent operating history and as recently as three years ago won awards based on its condition and operation. That is not to say, however, that there are not significant improvements that POAH is committed to making. As with most buildings of this age, certain components are outdated and need to be refurbished or replaced.

While it is possible to perform these repairs over a period of years (a method consistent with funding out of replacement reserves), POAH believes it is much more cost effective to implement the repair program at one time and sooner rather than later.

In the case of all major building systems, we have conducted a careful analysis of the building components and designed repair or replacement strategies to maximize the use of our resources, to improve the quality of life of the residents, and to beautify the neighborhood. Planned improvements include, among others:

Installation of a new roof;

Replacement of windows to upgrade weatherproofing to modern standards;

Repair and replacement of heating, air-conditioning, and smoke-detection systems;

Upgrade of site lighting and signage to improve safety and appearance, and

Repair and replacement of kitchen cabinets, appliances, and bathroom fixtures.

We believe that the Washington Gardens Preservation Project provides a complimentary opportunity to create a partnership that will stabilize and improve an existing mixed-income community with the advantage that it would not be dependent on any local funding.

POAH looks forward to working with the Mayor, City Council, and Hagerstown residents to preserve and improve this important community resource.

David Bryant is communications manager for Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc., in Boston, Mass.

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