Cambridge Council Debates Over $21M Housing Project Improvements
CAMBRIDGE, Md.- Two neighborhoods managed by the Housing Authority of Cambridge are in need of some work. A proposed project would bring 190 units built in the 1960s and 1970s up to modern standards, but it would cost a total of $21 million.
One commissioner says he is concerned about who will be handling this major project, and why they need it. Ward 3 commissioner Frank Cooke has written an email rallying support for a meeting Tuesday night at city hall to discuss this project. Since the city has to more or less sign off on the upgrades for them to move forward, Cooke says he wants to see more information about where the money is going.
They don't look like much, but then again that's the whole point. Modest housing for people that need the financial assistance. But even still, compared to other housing projects in Cambridge, the units around Greenwood Avenue are a bit behind the times.
Ward 2 commissioner Donald Sydnor says the time has come to fix them up.
"They have gone through some repair, but now we have the opportunity to do extensive repairs, to make it better living conditions for the residents in that particular area," said Sydnor.
The properties, if they were normal apartments, would net the city $175,000 annually according to commissioner Frank Cooke. Instead, the housing authority pays $15,000 in lieu of taxes. Except Cooke says they haven't done that for years.
"We've not received payments for 2012, 2013, 2014, and none yet for 2015."
Cooke says based off that track record, he is concerned about a $21 million project, but Sydnor says that issue will be sorted out.
"They have already told us that they will be paying those funds up front," said Sydnor.
And they would up their annual payment to $35,000. But Cooke is still not convinced.
"I can tell you this. I'm not entering into a new agreement with the same individuals until I know what the problems are, how they monies are to be spent, and at this point I probably want an audit," said Cooke.
Sydnor, and mayor Jackson-Stanley though say the improvements are worthwhile, and are on track with similar upgrades to government projects in Salisbury and across the country.
The housing authority told us we could not knock on doors to ask neighbors what they thought about these upgrades, since they are government property. People we spoke to on the street though say that these homes are in need of major improvements to bring them on par with neighboring projects in Cambridge.
The Housing Authority of Cambridge approached the city last week, asking them to approve the $21 million upgrade plan. That money is coming from a department of Housing and Urban Development program, which hinges on the city approving a $35,000 annual payment in lieu of the $175,000 property tax.
Sydnor says the upgrades would be done in 30 unit blocks. No one would be forced out of a home, but may need to be relocated during the upgrade process in Cambridge.