Contra Costa Times: Barnidge -- Six months later, Hacienda residents still waiting for relocation

blogimage.jpgResidents of Richmond's troubled Hacienda public housing development must feel as if they're trapped in a time warp. After reports of water leaks, mold and vermin infestation earlier this year, the City Council on April 1 directed staff to prepare a plan to relocate residents within 30 days. The next day, City Manager Bill Lindsay told this newspaper that he hoped the 130 residents would be relocated "between 61 and 150 days from today."

Now, six months later -- and with no immediate relief in sight -- frustrated residents are still living in the same deplorable development they were when this hairball was coughed up. They are understandably annoyed.

"I'd be frustrated, too," Councilman Jael Myrick said. "And I am frustrated."

When the council decided to seek funding for relocation and building renovations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -- rather than dip into general funds -- it dived into a red-tape sinkhole that now is served up as the scapegoat.

Tim Jones, director of the Richmond Housing Authority, says dealing with HUD has taken longer than expected. Councilman Jim Rogers, who said the cash-strapped city had no other options, reminds that "we're dealing with a fairly complex process and a fairly large bureaucracy."

Still, no one is pleased. Nor have city leaders forgotten how they arrived at this ugly destination. Whether the reason was neglect, mismanagement or oversight, the condition of the Hacienda facility is impossible to defend.

"A lot of problems start with the fact that it's old and crumbling with repairs that should have been done years, if not decades, ago," Rogers said. "It's true, we dropped the ball."

While most council members have declined to publicly point the finger of blame, Nat Bates is less circumspect in calling for the housing director's ouster: "I recommend that we get a professional person who knows what in the hell they're doing, and Tim Jones is not that person."

Jones' supporters -- aside from his boss, Lindsay, it's a small club -- had more explaining to do last week when a resident of the city's Nystrom Village development lodged a different complaint. She and her two children were moved out of their apartment and into a hotel in May, she said, so the housing authority could do a two-week renovation. Four months and multiple unanswered emails later, she still has not been told when she can return home.

"I'm not pleased at all with the way that's been handled," Myrick said.

Added Rogers: "It's inexcusable that she made repeated attempts to get an update and wasn't answered."

"The housing authority is the most blatantly incompetent department we have in the city," Bates said.

Nystrom Village, it turns out, also has issues with mold -- and roaches, if resident reports are to be believed. No telling what new surprises will emerge Oct. 7 at the next housing authority hearing.

Those looking for a cheerier take needed only to wait for Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, modeling her rose-colored glasses, to take the microphone last week:

"On the Hacienda issue, it's clear that we're moving forward with HUD, getting this disposition agreement approved. I know we're all going to be so excited when that final decision is made. ... We want to make sure that happens as expeditiously as possible."

"Expeditious" left the room a long time ago.

Reposted from the Contra Costa Times.

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