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February 29, 2016 Published in Letters/Opinions

Regarding Dangerous Divides

To the Editor:

How curious!  Twenty two of the existing affordable housing units adjacent to the Alfred Street Baptist Church will be demolished so the church can expand its sanctuary.  Is Councilman John Taylor Chapman not a church attendee?  In another forum he demanded the city violate two of its plans rather than forgo loss.

Where will the displaced residents likely go?  “The [Braddock] Gateway project will add 74 new affordable housing units to the city.  One of the other projects coming up for ADHC is the possible redevelopment of Alexandria’s Carpenter Shelter, a homeless housing shelter in the Braddock Neighborhood.  The redeveloped Shelter would add 100 units.”  Carpenter’s Shelter is located where it is, near Braddock Metro and the Gateway, because Councilwoman Pepper and Shelter Board member Donley did not want it in their Cameron Station neighborhood.

From the city and ARHA’s 2008 MOU: “Whereas, the City desires…an affordable strategy that addresses affordable housing throughout the City.”  In fact the City continues its Jim Crow politics.  A disgusted Braddock neighborhood now expects a higher concentration of such housing, not the area plan’s planned reduction.  The 2008 MOU was written in conjunction with the city’s 2008 Glebe Park bailout.

From the city and ARHA’s 2008 MOU: “Whereas, since the 1970s, the policy of the City and ARHA has been…de-concentration by scattered site replacements….”  The City is reluctant to scatter public housing.  In fact affordable housing, when combined with the existing stock of public housing, is an ever increasing mass of concentrated mayhem.  ARHA Redevelopment Group members Chapman and Wilson should hold ARHA to account.

Also from the city and ARHA’s 2008 MOU: “The goals, objectives and performance measures and overall agency management plan shall reflect ARHA’s current planned and future schedules for housing unit physical inspection and maintenance….”  As someone has already asked, “Why does Chapman, a member of Council tolerate ARHA’s substandard maintenance?”

Increase neighborhood density, spot zone a gutless group runs the show.  A church agreeably expands and ARHA pays cash for its $4 million office building.  Dare we discuss opportunity costs, profit margins and or repeated cash shortfalls?  ARHA’s January 2016 Board minutes state: “The major reason the need for reserves was higher than anticipated is because there was a three month delay in the Central Office Cost Center collecting office rents for 401 Wythe Street.”  ARHA CEO Roy Priest also serves as the Board of Directors Secretary-Treasurer.  Conflict of interest is defined how.

Finally from the city and ARHA’s 2008 MOU: “The City’s Planning and Zoning staff shall use its best efforts….”  Staff is engaged in process.  They kowtow to ARHA, ignoring the fact that Braddock’s newly created voting precinct rejected the former Mayor.

Councilman Smedberg may feel regret, but his May 20 votes were spot on.  His colleagues are driven by cause, not due diligence.  We agree the discussion is about people, not buildings only.  That said taxpayers are being screwed.

Both the Braddock Road Small Area Plan and the Braddock East Plan should be implemented as approved in 2008.

Charles Conway



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