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HUD grants conditional approval for Casas sales

March 13, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Mayor Javier Alatorre received the letter Monday from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announcing the conditional approval of the Calexico Housing Authority's plan to sell families living in the low-income Casas del Sol projects the homes they now rent, if they qualify.

Some of the families that live in the tract of homes near the New River here have waited eight years for this opportunity.

At Thursday's Housing Authority meeting, housing residents demanded that authority Executive Director Lupita Rios produce a letter of approval from HUD.

The letter that arrived on Monday was the letter for which Casas residents and Rios were waiting.

The letter states the plan of action the Housing Authority submitted to guide them in selling the Casas homes is correct this time.


"We wish the Calexico Housing Authority much success with the home ownership plan," wrote Bob Cook, director of HUD's office of public housing.

The Cook-penned letter came at the request of Alatorre and the Calexico City Council, who intervened on the Casas residents' behalf to find out the status of the 5H program.

Copies of the letter will also be made available to residents of Casas del Sol.

Rios said this morning efforts started Monday by the authority and Goodwin and Associates, the consultant hired to implement the 5H plan, to process the paper work necessary to sell the Casas homes to residents.

For the past eight years the Housing Authority has attempted to sell the Casas del Sol homes to its residents through HUD programs. After being turned down under a previous HUD program, in 1996 the authority applied under the 5H program, which authority officials have been working on since.

Housing residents and commissioners on the authority's board blame the eight-year delay on Rios' alleged attempts to skirt HUD regulations, said authority commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Solano.

Rios' requests to transfer funding from the Casas program to other projects, among other things, were repeatedly denied by Cook.

"She wanted to transfer the money coming in from HUD for the Casas projects to start another project," Solano said Monday.

"HUD told her through a number of letters that she couldn't do that but she didn't make changes to the plan because she makes more money in the long run by renting to the residents instead of selling to them," Solano claimed.

The Housing Authority receives rent subsidies from HUD — funds that make up the difference between what qualified low-income residents can pay and the market value of the rent of the units.

Rios laughed this morning at the claim she attempted to make more money for the authority at the expense of its residents.

"It's a matter of me providing low-income housing for the community, it's not making money for the agency," she said.

Rios claims under the previous HUD program regarding Casas — the HOPE 1 program — the authority was able to transfer funding from that project to other projects with the intent of providing replacement units for those sold to residents.

Rios has said the first sale of a Casas home could come this summer.

Still, this doesn't mean residents of the housing projects are happy with Rios or with the Housing Authority board, according to Maria Gasca, president of the housing residents' representative council.

Gasca and Ema Silva, two of the four standing members of the residents' representative council, have vowed to continue to press for the Housing Authority board's removal at a March 20 hearing scheduled during a Calexico City Council meeting.

The hearing was set by the City Council to determine if individual Housing Authority board members should be replaced or if the council should step in and replace the entire board.

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