Housing authority chair steps down

Katherine “Kitty” Dooley stepped down as chair of the Charleston-Kanawha Housing Authority Monday after 10 years in the position.

“I wanted my life’s work to help people, to do some good,” Dooley said at Monday’s board meeting. “And the work I’ve been able to do as chair of this organization has certainly given me an opportunity to do that, and for that I’m eternally grateful.”

Dooley has served on the board for more than 15 years and will continue her work as a board member. Dooley expressed her appreciation for the support from administrators and employees of the authority, as well as the city of Charleston.

Dooley said of her continued time on the board that she is interested in helping the authority to become “more self-sufficient” as an agency and developing the social services portion of the organization, particularly as it relates to young people.

“I did say I wanted to change the face of public housing, but I didn’t want to change it for me or for the parents,” Dooley said. “I really wanted to do it for the kids, because I think if they’re given a high quality place to live and a community in which to grow, then they can reach for success probably they couldn’t have imagined in lesser circumstances.”

Dooley spoke highly of her successor board member Allan McVey, who was elected during the meeting.

“I’ve often commented that people stay too long in a particular role and that we need vision for the agency, and certainly Allan will bring that to Charleston-Kanawha Housing [Authority],” Dooley said.

Vice-chair Marie Prezioso, whose tenure on the board has essentially “paralleled” Dooley’s, also passed the baton Monday. Board member Tim Morris was elected to the position.

In other business, the board approved the federally mandated flat rent increase. Housing Management Director Janice Banks told the board 84 tenants will be affected. Forty-eight tenants in the authority’s high-rise apartments will see their rents increase $6 to $8. Two families will see their rents raised by $108, the largest increase for tenants with flat rents.

It was initially thought that more than 100 tenants would be affected by the increase, according to a May report from the Gazette.

Current tenants won’t be affected by the policy until they are re-certified for occupancy, which involves re-signing a lease. Tenants aren’t limited to the flat rent option. The housing authority also uses a formula rent, which is based on 30 percent of a person’s income.

Tenants who currently pay flat rent have the choice to switch to the formula method during recertification if it ends up being more affordable.

The board also approved its excess liability plan, which has a 4 percent flat rate increase.

The housing authority will continue to wait to submit its demolition and disposition plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Jeff Knight, Chief Operations Officer of the housing authority’s Section 8 and HUD division, said the city of Charleston asked that it get an updated letter of a approval for demolition at Littlepage Terrace from the State Historic Preservation Office.

The housing authority sought and gained the office’s permission in 2010, Knight said.

“The letter was written in such a way that said we have no problem with your further actions and demolition,” Knight said.

Knight contacted the office in May, but SHPO hasn’t yet taken up the matter. Once it does, Knight said he assumes another letter of support would be issued and then the housing authority, along with the city, could pursue its environmental analysis.

The board approved in May a relocation plan for those living in Littlepage Terrace’s 108 units. Forty-eight units will be built in place of those torn down, a continuation of upgrades and decreased density at its developments.

The housing authority has been holding meetings with Littlepage residents to let them know their options for relocation, which include moving to another public housing development, moving to a tax credit property or using a Section 8 voucher to rent “at market.”

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.

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