Boston Housing Authority receives over $17 million for capital improvements

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Boston Housing Authority more than $17 million in its annual capital investments campaign this year, HUD announced on Feb. 11.

According to the BHA, it is the largest public housing authority in New England and the sixth largest in the nation.

“Our capital funding has allowed us to provide improvements to the federally funded public housing developments,” said Lydia Argo, the chief of staff of the Boston Housing Authority. “It provides a very needed resource for women, children, elderly and low income families across the city. It provides a needed affordable housing resource.”

Over all, HUD announced the allocation of $52.9 million to public housing authorities across the state. The grants are provided through HUD’s Capital Fund Program, which allows public housing authorities to build, repair and renovate public housing.

One of Boston’s most recent projects is the renovation of the Charlestown public housing community. Corcoran Jennison Associates, a Boston-based development company, was tapped for the project, which will demolish and rebuild the 1,100-unit community.

“HUD has a responsibility to provide public housing residents with a quality and safe roof over their heads,” said HUD Secretary Julian Castro in the press release from Feb. 11. “This funding, in addition to assistance from the private sector through HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration Program, will help housing authorities address longstanding capital improvements and preserve and enhance America’s affordable housing.”

Despite the funding, overall grants for capital improvements have declined nationally and within Massachusetts. According to the BHA’s 2015-2019 Five-Year Agency Plan, reduced congressional appropriations have provided public housing authorities with 80 to 95 percent of an authority’s annual eligible funding. In 2015, public housing authorities, including BHA, expected to receive only 87 to 89 percent of their eligible funding.

“BHA now faces an unprecedented lack of support at the federal level,” the report says. “This reduced funding is expected to continue. The funding shortfalls threaten to severely impact the public housing program and will constrain the BHA’s ability to continue on the positive trajectory it has established in the past 20 years.”

This means that for 2015, the BHA estimated that it would not receive $6.8 million of operating subsidy, which is needed to operate properties. A 2011 third party report by Cambridge Abt Associates Inc., found the nation’s 1.1 million public housing units are facing an estimated $25.6 billion in large-scale repairs.

“It’s definitely useful funding and we appreciate that we receive that capital funding,” Argo said. “It allows us to provide capital improvement but it’s largely infrastructural projects. We need to address them if we want to preserve housing for future generations.”

Alexandra Malloy is a senior journalism major at Northeastern University.

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