The Cranston Housing Authority got a welcome infusion of funds last week when the Public Housing Capital Fund awarded them $637,544 to finance public housing projects.
It’s an annual modernization grant awarded to all of the housing authorities in the state, with funds divvied up based on the size of the agency. Cranston was hit with a 20 percent reduction this year, but Housing Authority Executive Director Elaine Woloohojian was confident that they would be able to accomplish much of their to-do list with the money allotted.
Last year, Cranston received approximately $800,000.
“We’ve always been very fortunate in that it’s been a steady number and it seems like the last few years we’ve gotten around 800,000, 900,000. This year we did get cut a bit but we’ll manage,” Woloohojian said. “We weren’t surprised. We’ll manage on a little less this year.”
Capital funds are used for repairs on the six buildings in Cranston run by the Housing Authority. Last year, the agency did a needs assessment and mapped out repairs and updates that would be necessary for the next 20 years.
“Every year we take the capital fund and we plug in and do as much as we can from that account. We just chip away at it each year,” Woloohojian said.
While some of the updates are cosmetic, like new cabinets, interior painting and exterior façade work, much of it improves the energy efficiency of the buildings, such as new windows, updated HVAC systems and new roofs. Fire code updates have also been a major priority in the last several years.
“We do any and all repairs and updates to keep the buildings viable. That’s why they always look as nice as they do. Our buildings are all in good shape,” Woloohojian said.
In recent years, she said the agency has thankfully avoided dipping into its budget for many emergency repairs.
The Housing Authority is now working on repairs with the 2010 grant. The grants are awarded in July or August, but the money doesn’t come through until September. By the time the agency finds an architect to draft plans and puts the projects out to bid, it’s January. Work begins in February.
“This grant is going to go a long way to provide a lot of the repairs and upgrades,” said Mayor Allan Fung. “In these challenging economic times, to get that $637,000 is critical for us to keep providing first rate services to the residents at the Cranston Housing Authority.”
Although there is less money to go around this year, Woloohojian stayed positive, pointing out that bids are often lower during tough economic times as well.
“Because of the way the economic situation is, sometimes our bids come in lower because people are trying to keep busy,” she said. “You get more work done with less money.”
The grant is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Capital Improvements, and is a funding source that Congressman Jim Langevin said he has supported throughout his tenure.
“I have voted to fund it since I came to Congress, and encourage my colleagues to support effective programs that both provide quality public housing and a return on the investment by helping residents contribute to the economy,” he said.
Langevin expressed his confidence in the Housing Authority in choosing how to allocate funds. He did say, however, that these grants are not just about housing.
“The key to this program and the most effective public housing programs is that they both help people find a place to live and help them be productive members of our community, which improves our economy overall,” he said. “The funding provides stable housing for our most vulnerable citizens and saves residents money through lower energy costs during a difficult economic time, while also enhancing their job prospects.”