The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) upped its standards in 2011, and staff and the current board has done well adjusting despite limited resources, according to Executive Director Jennifer Hohn.
"It's affected every [authority] in the country," Hohn said. "We're being forced to do more with less."
Hohn reported high scores from HUD in all categories from the condition of properties to accounts receivables, most notably finance, where "healthy reserves" are enjoyed. A broader financial report is due next month.
HUD's most dramatic 2011 demands came in occupancy, where 98 percent was made the target occupancy rate. With 300 of its 306 units full, the city's authority is now right there, Hohn said.
This comes after a Nov. 27, 2012 notice from the Office of Public Housing of HUD in Boston, in which the authority received a substandard designation in a Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) audit regarding the 2010-2011 fiscal year. The principal issue for that past time frame was the occupancy level among the authority's subsidized housing.
Housing Authority board Chairman James Canavan also noted improvements since Hohn and the new board took over.
"HUD loves this housing authority," he said.
always room for growth.
Canavan said officials are "investigating" the possibility of increasing temperatures -- capped at 72 degrees since refurbishments at housing authority properties were undertaken in 2011 -- for "frail elderly."
"We've talked about doing something more for the frail elderly above and beyond what we're doing for everybody else," Canavan said.
Many tenants at the high rises on Spring and Ashland streets complain of cold they cannot address due to the temperature cap, which was accepted as part of a $3.2 million energy performance loan the housing authority received from HUD in 2011 to cover the cost of needed improvements to its various buildings -- particularly in the 40-plus-year-old high rises.
Hohn has maintained that tenants must adjust, though it may take time, as the grant "saved this agency" financially and it's now locked into the deal.
A recent petition against the cap gathered 117 signatures.
Board member Marie Harpin said state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi (D-North Adams) is bringing the cause to Boston. She'll lobby for a higher cap on room temperatures, perhaps 78 degrees, that could affect agencies across the commonwealth, according to Harpin.
Some high rise tenants say temperatures drop below the low mark of 68 degrees, and city firefighters responded last week to a frozen sprinkler pipe in Spring Street's high rise, Fire Chief Steve Meranti said.
A Jan. 9 temperature check of all five floors at Spring Street found all temperatures to be between 70 and 73 degrees, though.
In a note on housing authority heating given to the Transcript, Hohn said ventilation renovation at the high rises may be considered as a future project.
Meanwhile, in a recent interview with the Transcript, she encouraged tenants to reach out to staff if they're feeling cold.
Housing Authority staff have provided residents with draft guards and other accommodations this winter.
"We have a 24-hour on-call maintenance staff," Hohn said. " ... We're more than happy to do the little things we can do to make [tenants] more comfortable."