Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 | 9:48 a.m.
The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority is making headway on two major projects.
At Thursday’s meeting of the housing authority’s Board of Commissioners, the body approved a $12.3 million contract for renovations at Archie Grant Park, an existing senior housing development. Located at the corner of Bruce Street and Foremaster Lane, Archie Grant Park will get new roofing, air conditioning and water heaters, among other upgrades.
The board also approved funding for the construction of a planned 57-unit, affordable housing complex for mixed-income families. The Wardelle Street Townhouses will be located at the corner of Wardelle Street and Bonanza Road and are expected to open in 2022.
The proposed complex will cost an estimated $15.5 million, to be paid for partly by the housing authority and partly by HUD funds through Clark County and the City of Las Vegas, said housing authority director of development and modernization Frank Stafford.
While commissioners unanimously approved both project items with few comments, two commissioners raised questions later in the meeting about the authority’s handling of alleged maintenance and security issues at other properties.
Two residents who spoke at the meeting said they frequently encounter homeless people entering the common areas of their complexes, sometimes destroying property. Arlene Yee, a resident of the Robert Gordon Plaza complex for seniors, said she and another resident were “attacked” by a homeless person who broke into the property last weekend.
“We’ve had people coming in and out of our building doing all kinds of things,” she said. “We’ve had them ransack our laundry room. They broke all the locks and broke our backdoor. We feel kind of unsafe.”
Another resident of the multi-family Jamestown Towers complained of homeless people getting into that property as well, along with an ongoing flooding issue she said she experienced in her unit.
The housing authority has tried to address the trend of unauthorized persons entering common areas by only keeping them open when they are staffed by housing authority personnel, said executive director Chad Williams. Because the housing authority is only open Monday-Thursday, common spaces that include laundry units now only stay open those days, Williams said.
That has created some additional problems: Not only are residents unable to access common spaces Friday-Sunday, but those areas are also vulnerable to break-ins on those days, Yee said.
“There’s three days that there’s nobody here, and that’s when they come in. They know when you’re not here,” she said.
Newly-appointed commissioner Olivia Diaz asked whether the authority could look into a system whereby only residents could access the laundry units and other common areas. The housing authority used to have that type of system in place, but residents kept letting in non-residents or friends, causing similar problems, Williams said.
Diaz, who joined the body this summer, nonetheless expressed alarm about the fact that residents cannot access laundry three days per week.
“Four days out of the week is not enough, I don’t believe, for the whole community to get their laundry addressed in a functional and convenient matter for them,” she said.
Commissioner Lawrence Weekly stressed the need to listen to residents’ concerns and concurred with Diaz about the possibility of modernizing some aspects of the housing authority’s operations. He added that residents, especially seniors, frequently complain at board meetings and said it isn’t always clear and how and when their complaints get resolved.
“It seems like at almost every meeting, if not every other meeting, we’re hearing some of the same concerns,” Weekly said.
None of the concerns raised are unsolvable, Williams said. For example, at Sartini Plaza, a complex for seniors, staff has started a pilot “resident security program” that allows residents to patrol their own property, alleviating break-in issues, Williams said.
“We bought them some shirts and whistles, so we’re going to test that out and see how it goes,” he said.