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Watertown Housing Authority’s plans to replace units on hold

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The Watertown Housing Authority’s plans to replace four demolished units at its Maywood Terrace family complex are on hold while the nonprofit awaits word on stabilization of funds.

Executive Director Michael C. Robare said the agency has lost $1.2 million in the past two years from decreased annual appropriations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, effects of sequestration and what’s called reserve recapture, which is a way for HUD to recoup money if it deems housing authorities have too much capital in the bank.

“It may or may not come to fruition,” Mr. Robare said, regarding the replacement of units. “You have to look at your operations and cash flow. We never get 100 percent of what we’re eligible for. We’re trying to advocate for the need of affordable housing.”

He said the agency will continue to operate its family complexes and senior high-rise apartment buildings in the city, but cannot add more units until more funds are released, if at all.

The Housing Authority has looked at its hiring practices and has gotten creative with its overall budgeting to maintain operations. Mr. Robare said the Watertown Housing Authority holds about 1,500 people within 700 individual family or single apartments among seven housing communities.

More than 300 people are on the agency’s waiting list. Mr. Robare said other housing developments in the area may alleviate some of that burden.

The agency is working toward preservation of its current housing communities, with particular attention to its family complexes. Mr. Robare said the agency recently signed a $40,000, three-year contract with ICU Security and Private Investigation, Watertown, to patrol its family sites during the evenings this summer.

“Kids are in school 10 months of the year, and a lot of activities go on during the summer,” he said. “We try to reinforce the curfew, which is around 10 p.m. Just their presence alone is a deterrent for criminal activity.”

Security officers defuse and assist in situations, and work collaboratively with local law enforcement, he said.

Security cameras at each of the agency’s seven communities also help the Watertown Housing Authority enforce lease agreements with tenants and that makes them “accountable for their actions.”

Mr. Robare said if the Housing Authority were not around, the waiting list for affordable housing would just continue to grow.

“If you didn’t have housing, what stability would you have?” he said. “How do we provide that? A safe environment. Safety and security go in tandem.”

To enhance its operations, the agency undergoes an annual risk assessment. Mr. Robare said while the Housing Authority is a pretty tight ship, minor recommendations are made for improvement. It also is proactive in replacing all smoke detectors at its family complexes and fire alarm panels at two high-rise apartment buildings.

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