City Housing Authority gets a ‘B-‘

New Haven’s rejuvenated Housing Authority finally cracked the “B” range in its yearly government assessment.

On the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual assessment, New Haven earned 80 out of 100 possible points. The score, released in January, represents significant and continual improvement over last year’s 72.7, a failing 52.3 in 1999 and an embarrassing 33 four years ago.

“It’s certainly not a perfect scoring system, but certainly if you go from a 33 to an 80 over a short period, you’re doing something right,” said Robert Solomon, the Housing Authority’s interim executive director.

HUD annually evaluates each of the nation’s 3,100 housing authorities on four main categories: financial status, management framework, physical inspection and a resident survey. The scores of the housing agencies are compared on a curve, said Robin Golden, a deputy director of the authority.

New Haven received 21 of 25 points in finance, including full credit in two of the funding subcategories. Last year, New Haven earned just 15.3 points in the finance category.

“At this point, we are financially sound and have the ability to make serious improvements to public housing, instead of just putting Band-Aids on holes in buildings,” Solomon said.

New Haven’s financial state dramatically improved when HUD granted the authority “Moving to Work” status in October. The designation, offered to just 32 housing agencies nationwide, allows the authority to collect all funding sources together into one account.

Last year’s 26.2 of 30 possible points in the physical condition category were counted again this year. A new physical inspection is not required annually for the HUD assessment.

New Haven could have scored 81 on the assessment, Golden said. Failure of the HUD computer system on the day of the deadline prevented the auditor from electronically submitting New Haven’s data. Consequently, New Haven was assessed the one-point-per-day late penalty when the figures finally went through.

“HUD didn’t care whether we could or couldn’t submit it,” Golden said.

She added that New Haven lost the most points on the resident survey portion of the analysis.

Much of the increase in New Haven’s score can be attributed to Solomon, who in September 1999 became director of an authority that had failed the annual HUD assessment every year dating to 1993. But authority officials said room remains for additional progress.

“We’ve had a pretty dramatic improvement, but we would like to be working on an ‘A’ level,” Golden said.

New Haven’s score should continue to rise in upcoming years because Solomon leaves behind a solid foundation for his successor, Stephen Yandle, an associate dean of the Yale Law School.

Yandle, who will become the authority’s director in June, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The authority currently plans to improve the housing complexes at West Rock, Quinnipiac Terrace and Winter Gardens over the next three to five years.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced Monday night that the city will apply for a HOPE VI revitalization grant for the West Rock and Quinnipiac Terrace projects again this year. New Haven failed to obtain the $35 million in HUD funding in 2001.

Solomon said the new housing units will not isolate the residents from the rest of the community as many older developments do.

“There is no comparison between housing projects built 60 years ago and modern complexes,” Solomon said.

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