A Housing Bubble Burst

About four months ago, I wrote about the standoff between the Annapolis Housing Authority and city Mayor Mike Pantelides. At the crux of the debate was the fact that Mayor Pantelides did not reappoint then-Housing Authority Board Member Carl Snowden back to the board. Snowden of course is a Democratic political apparatchik with a record of political patronage jobs nearly as long as his rap sheet for drunk driving and pot possession.

In my piece, I concluded with this statement:

The focus of the Snowden reappointment drama should not be on Carl Snowden, it should be on the remaining Housing Authority Commissioners who would rather try to score political points instead of adequately doing the job to which they were appointed.

Let us fast forward to today, when the Annapolis Capital’s Jack Lambert began releasing his several months of work investigating the Annapolis Housing Authority. And needless to say, what he is discovered his rather damning:

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A three-month examination of the housing authority by The Capital revealed:

  • Top leaders have political, not property management and development, experience and are not pursuing innovative housing solutions.
  • City leaders, unlike many other municipalities around the country, are uninvolved in the future of public housing and are unwilling to assist the housing authority.
  • Police, residents and neighbors are frustrated that violent crime has ticked up on public housing properties — even more than elsewhere in Annapolis.
  • Growing financial struggles leading to disputes between the city and the housing authority.
  • Few solutions pursued — or even offered — to alleviate the high concentration of poverty in public housing neighborhoods.

Perhaps most importantly, the way public housing is discussed in Annapolis is shaped by misconceptions and inaccuracies.

Be sure to read the entire piece, and the rest of it as it gets released during the week.

The Annapolis Housing Authority is an easy agency to ding because of their inability to fulfill their mission, and their seeming cavalier attitude toward completing it. Their focus has been on trying to maintain political power and to scratch each other’s back and try to maintain their political influence over housing rather then helping out the people. And that’s why it is so important to point out some of the failures that the Democratically-controlled Annapolis Housing Authority has presided over. Because while they Authority was fussing over the fate of Carl Snowden, this is what was going on in the units under their control:

As of Nov. 14, 41 of the agency’s units were not suitable to live in. Many of the vacant units are in prominent locations in Newtowne 20 and Eastport Terrace, giving the neighborhoods an aura of neglect.

The tenants of the third-story apartments at Harbour House, which lacks central air conditioning, swelter during the summer months. Hallways have bits of trash, cigarette butts and — in one case — urine in a Gatorade bottle. Residents say the authority hasn’t fixed problems they’ve reported in their units, including bedbug infestations and holes in walls.

Rosa Jones’ house smells bad — literally.

Jones, 54, lives on the first floor of a home in the Eastport Terrace complex. She lost a leg to diabetes and gets around in a motorized wheelchair.

When a reporter visited her house one October afternoon, her living room was bare except for a television set, a love seat and an ottoman.

The most notable feature of the apartment was the stomach-turning smell. Jones said it emanates from the pipes outside her unit.

“They don’t give a damn how you are living,” she said.

Read that last sentence again. “They don’t give a damn how you are living.” And you know what, based on the fact that the Housing Authority Commissioners have been more interested in giving another sinecure to Carl Snowden than they have been in fixing structural deficiencies in their buildings and ensuring some sort of basic hygiene in their common areas, it’s hard to argue with her point.

From all appearances, the Annapolis Housing Authority doesn’t give a damn about their customers.

The Annapolis Housing Authority is an important failed agency to highlight as a reason why the fight for good government never really ends here in Maryland. You have agencies like this one up and down all levels of government that are more interested in protecting their own interests than they are in doing the job they have been commissioned to do. Agencies work very hard to protect their political power at the expense of the citizens they are sworn to serve. The number of agencies and commissions across the State of Maryland, at both the municipal, county, and state level, would absolutely shock you. And these agencies often times have tremendous influence over the lives of everyday Marylanders. Not all of them are life and death situations like they are with public housing. But if you are trying to open a business, add a garage to your home, or even play bingo (I served for a year as on the Anne Arundel Amusement License Commission which regulated bingo parlors), your life is somehow impacted by the work that these agencies commissions are performing. And yes, there is a possibility that political posturing is playing an outsized role in the decisions and focus of these Boards and Commissions.

The Annapolis Housing Authority is part of a larger problem that we have here in the State of Maryland. And it is one that will require vigilance and work from all Maryland conservatives to correct.

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