Ferndale Housing Commission Aiming for Grand Upgrades

Ferndale Housing Commission Aiming for Grand Upgrades

(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 23, 2018)

Ferndale, MI – Federal funding has become available for housing authorities to upgrade and replace aging properties, and Ferndale Housing Commission has been invited to apply.

“We get to dream a little dream,” said Ferndale Housing Director Heater VanPoucker.  “This is an opportunity to improve these properties and make a meaningful change.”

That dream could include renovating or rebuilding Autumn House, which is about 50 years old, and lacking in air conditioning and attractive accessibility options. “What we may find is that Autumn House may be functionally obsolete and may cost more to upgrade than to rebuild.” The scattered homes through the city are also a challenge for the FHC to maintain, and looking at options for new apartments or town homes could be considered.

The next six weeks or so will be for assessing property needs and coming up with a rough idea of what is needed to give residents a modern, comfortable space to call home.

If the initial application is accepted, there will be a one year planning process to nail down details of the plan.

Though FHC is in the earliest stages of applying for funding, they have already begun the process of involving the residents. There has been some confusion about whether buildings will be closed permanently or privatized.  Neither of these is the case.

Among the considerations is what will happen to residents if they need to temporarily move.

“Residents have an absolute right to return,” VanPoucker said.  “We’re protective of our residents.  It’s going to break my heart to scare people, because change can be unsettling.  It’s going to be a difficult process. But in the end they will have a better place to come home to.”

The number of relocations could be reduced by not filling vacancies that arise over the year leading up to the construction.

Ferndale Housing Commission has 166 units, including 43 houses scattered though the city, Autumn House (with 55 units) and Withington West (with 68 units).  Residents would be temporarily relocated to vacant apartments and homes within the FHC, and if necessary to other houses or apartments in the area.

The relocation plan will include a social worker and making other resources available to residents.  Plus the residents will get to take part in the fun stuff.  “When we get to the design process, we’ll have design charrettes so residents and people in the community can share ideas about what they want to see.”

FHC can consider new amenities such as air conditioning, accessibility, and eco-friendly “green” features. They may be able to include mixed use features such as ground level retail that might cater to the building’s elderly, disabled or low-income residents.  They could also consider an area for fitness and recreation.

The funding, offered through the US Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is called a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD grant). RAD maintains the public stewardship of the converted property through clear rules on ongoing ownership and use, meaning that Ferndale Housing Commission will maintain ownership of the properties.

The mission of Ferndale Housing Commission “is to ensure our residents have access to high quality, affordable housing and to also ensure that they feel secure and welcome within a diverse and inclusive community that is caring, active, and one in which everybody has a place.” Learn more about FHC at http://ferndalehousing.com

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