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Springfield Housing Authority seeks ARPA funds for building improvements

SHA Robinson Gardens apartments , Springfield MA
SHA Robinson Gardens apartments , Springfield MA

$30 million needed for urgent capital projects

The Springfield Housing Authority is pitching to get a piece of the city’s share of funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The Springfield Housing Authority, which manages 26 properties with close to 3,000 apartments and is landlord to 18,000 people, doesn’t want to be forgotten in the conversation about how the city spends its $123 million allocation of APRA funds, said the authority’s Executive Director Denise Jordan.

“Most look at the Springfield Housing Authority as a private federal-state operation and forget that we are tasked with providing housing for some of the city’s most vulnerable populations – individuals and families deemed low-income, folks with disabilities, and our seniors,” she said.

Speaking at a meeting of the Springfield City Council’s Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, Jordan outlined the agency’s urgent needs for major improvement projects at its buildings.

She said the housing authority’s capital projects plan calls for spending $75 million over the next five years. But the agency urgently needs $30 million for new elevators, plumbing, and window replacements.

“It is important for all you to know, we have a multitude of aging developments with infrastructures that need upgrading and not having the resources to do so, and that is one of the reasons we are here today – ARPA funds,” Jordan said to the Councilors.

To pay for capital improvements the housing authority receives about $4.5 million annually from the federal and state governments, a sum that Jordan called “a drop in the bucket.”

To dole out the city’s share of ARPA funds, the administration of Mayor Domenic Sarno set up an application process and created a committee to review the proposals and make recommendations to the mayor, who has the final say.

So far, this process has resulted in more than $17 million being awarded to small businesses, nonprofits, and neighborhood councils.

“When you look at our request, $30 million seems like a lot of money, but it is really not when you look at the grand scheme of things and you look at the funds going to small businesses and nonprofits and you look at the people we serve – the most vulnerable and needy residents who live in public housing and they need help,” Jordan said.

Committee members were receptive to the housing authority’s pitch.

City Councilor Maria Perez said she is very familiar with the elevator problems at the authority’s Riverview Apartments – a complex of five, eight-story buildings.

“And sometimes it is scary to get in those elevators,” Perez said.

The housing authority’s request for ARPA funds merits serious consideration by the Sarno administration said City Councilor Sean Curran, the chair of the intergovernmental relations committee.

“I certainly think you have a strong case for some capital improvement funds especially when I hear the housing authority needs 12 elevators in eight or nine story buildings that house the elderly,” Curran said.

He noted that Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is investing $50 million of APRA funds in the Boston Housing Authority.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.