Click photo to enlarge
<B>A broken bench at the Willowbrook Apartments complex is emblematic of problems at the Bennington Housing Authority. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Authority recently designated the local housing organization &ldquo;substandard.&rdquo; (Peter Crabtree)</B>
A broken bench at the Willowbrook Apartments complex is emblematic of problems at the Bennington Housing Authority. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development
A broken bench at the Willowbrook Apartments complex is emblematic of problems at the Bennington Housing Authority. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Authority recently designated the local housing organization “substandard.” (Peter Crabtree)
Friday December 21, 2012

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Housing Authority has been labeled substandard by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and must submit a corrective plan.

Deborah Reed, executive director of BHA, said the group has already corrected issues identified by HUD, however, and will soon submit its response. BHA operates the Brookside Apartments on South Street, the Walloomsac Apartments on School Street and the Beech Court Apartments on Beech Street.

In a Nov. 30 letter to the BHA board, Director Marilyn B. O'Sullivan said the local authority received a failing Public Housing Assessment System score for the fiscal year that ended in June 2011. The letter calls for BHA to take immediate action to identify the source of performance deficiencies and develop a plan to recover its score.

18 out of 40 points

BHA received 18 out of 40 available points for the physical condition of its properties. Elizabeth Montaquila, a public affairs assistant with HUD, said at least one housing unit in all 17 BHA-run buildings was inspected last year. A total of 24 units were randomly selected for inspection.

"Basically, there was just a variety of different issues. Some of them were really minor, ranging from holes in walls to ceilings and paint peeling," she said.

Other issues were considered more serious. Montaquila said some units had emergency or fire exits that were blocked.


Advertisement

HUD officials also identified tripping hazards on sidewalks and windows with missing handles. "It kind of ranges from minor things to more serious, such as the health and safety hazards," she said.

Kristine Foye, deputy regional administrator for HUD, said BHA's low score for the physical condition of its units required HUD to label it as substandard.

Reed said she received the letter on Dec. 5. A response will be filed within the required 30 days, she said. BHA has already addressed the problems, however, she said.

"We are in the process of putting our plan together. All the deficiencies that they found have been corrected. Our maintenance man does weekly community area walks to make sure everything is the way it's supposed to be," she said. "Basically, we've taken care of everything. Our HUD person has come and inspected and he was satisfied. It's just a matter of answering this letter. Everything has been done."

A maintenance person is now following up all work orders to make sure work has been completed. In some cases, some of the deficiencies identified by HUD "were in the process of modernization," according to Reed.

She said HUD inspectors checked for "stuff that they've never been concerned with before."

"In the past, we've been good. We haven't been 100 percent, but we've always been where we had to be," Reed said. "This year the stuff they looked at was more curb appeal than it was with the apartments. We were concentrating on making sure that the apartments were good."

Foye said HUD officials will review the work completed by BHA and work with the group to make sure all deficiencies are addressed.