Contact: Juliemar Ortiz
Statement on Park City Communities Plans to Evict 500 Residents
The residents who live in Bridgeport Public Housing are deeply disappointed in the behavior of Jilian Baldwin and the team at PCC. It is our belief that their recent announcement of the eviction of nearly 2000 residents is an opaque, calculated plan to :
- improve Park City Community’s HUD status from “Troubled”
- shift financial responsibility to city, federal and regional funding sources
- use the lives of the women, children and men who live in PCC as pawns that can be used to create leverage in a scheme to shift financial responsibility and improve the optics around how PCC housing operates.
At the same time, PCC remains an irresponsible landlord who does not rise above the designation of slumlord.
Is PCC Creating a Crisis?
Access to UniteCT funds and state rental assistance to property owners requires an eviction summons in order to access this financial support. We are concerned that PCC’s plan is to create a crisis for individual families in order to gain more financial support. Such a ploy would be dishonest at its core and dangerous to the health and livelihood of the 500 families who have been threatened with eviction.
PCC Lacks Transparency in their Financial / Rental Decision Making
Resident leadership of public housing in Bridgeport do not have confidence in PCCs ability to manage the administrative process of assessing who is eligible for eviction status.
Resident Payment Records are unavailable
PCC is unable to provide accurate payment histories for residents who have receipts and other proof of payment. It is unfair to move forward with eviction on any resident when housing cannot provide clean records for every household.
PCC’s Assessment of Late Payments Policy places undue burden on low income families
The system for assessing rent is flawed. It favors PCC and not the needs of low-income housing residents who are already struggling financially. The system makes it difficult to prove a reduction in rent is warranted, slowing down the process for residents to get their rent reduced. For example:
- Residents are expected to report every fluctuation in their income.
- Residents experiencing job loss or other crises will have to wait two months for their rent to reflect a reduction, but PCC routinely increases rent in real-time when resident income increases. Residents will still have to pay the higher rent, regardless of the reason they need a rent reduction, until this is resolved.
- If found that a rent reduction is warranted, there is no retroactive process for refund of rent overages.
PCC Lacks Social Service Support for Residents in Need
We are still dealing with the impacts of the pandemic. Park City Communities needs to work harder with people to make arrangements and provide other resources so families can remain in their own homes, in their own communities. Failure to do so will result in an increase in homelessness in Bridgeport, not a reduction.
- In the CT Post, PCC said they helped 100 families, but what happened to the other 400 families? When they evict all 400 families, where are they going to go? PCC knew that UniteCT had announced 12 months ago that they were no longer taking applications. Why did PCC not create a plan to help the additional 400 families?
PCC is a Poor Property Manager
If residents are being held accountable for unpaid rents, then housing should be held accountable for the unsafe living conditions that the residents are being made to live under. Low-income public housing residents are rent-paying tenants of the Park City Communities and tax-paying residents of the City of Bridgeport. It is time for PCC to stop being slumlords and take seriously their responsibility to provide safe, clean, adequate housing for all of their tenants. With ⅕ of PCC tenants being evicted, it is clear that this is not a simple money issue for PCC. Rescuing PCC without holding them responsible as more effective property managers is irresponsible.
HUD Regulations and Documentation
HUD regulations also need to be considered. In the calculation of rent, residents pay 30% of their gross and not net income. This net vs gross model is also baked in oppressive systemic failure designed to keep poverty in place.
Rent Calculation Clarity: Additionally, we have tried to ask that residents receive clarity on rent calculations, proactively. But there has been no move to make this happen. Our residents need facts as they work to improve their economic well-being.
Jillian Baldwin Mission:
Jillian Baldwin is an experienced public housing administrator, known as a “fixer.” We know an important part of her mission is to improve PCC status from “Troubled,” but is her plan to improve status through sleight of hand, or by becoming a better landlord?
How Do Evictions Combat Homelessness?
When resident leaders recently met with Jillian Baldwin, and she wanted community support for a new development, she stated that, despite the concerns of the resident leaders, PCC wanted to make this development happen because of the homeless situation in Bridgeport. But now she is evicting 20% of PCC tenants and leaving them susceptible to homelessness. This is hypocritical.
We need to nurture each other to keep the community together. We all have to get to the root of the problem. We are willing to work with PCC on solutions.
- In order to start with facts, PCC should be required to provide a detailed report of the issues that led to this issue.
- PCC Should be required to produce a plan of action that includes input and buy-in by resident leadership to ensure we will not get to this point again.
- Have a working group that includes residents and their ROSS staff to actively outreach to residents who will be requested to get support from state housing funds in order to avoid eviction.
If there is unwillingness to create a collective response and hold PCC accountable, then we have one final idea. Perhaps the mayor’s house should be an option to house some residents being evicted, and he should sleep in the streets and see how it feels.
The above statement was prepared by resident leaders of Park City Communities, which include the following public housing developments: PT Barnum, Trumbull Gardens, Charles F. Green Homes. Resident leaders are available for comment by contacting Juliemar Ortiz @ 203-360-0328.
More Analysis of Systemic Oppression
Quality of Life: Maintenance
PT residents need a seat at Commissioner meetings so that budgeting is allocated where it is most needed. Clearly, the budget does not meet the needs of residents when there are only four maintenance staff for a complex of 360 units and only two trash receptacles for every three apartments. Further, in many cases, the small maintenance staff lacks the experience or expertise to properly handle the maintenance issues that arise; actual licensed professionals are needed for jobs like mold remediation. The many lawsuits against PCC (e.g. for deaths from fire and the lack of reasonable access to buildings for people with disabilities, etc.) point to a larger problem of neglect and mismanagement.
Quality of Life: Mailboxes
A lack of access to safe and functional mailboxes
In the past, mailboxes were open to the public and convenient for residents to access. However, as time ensued, the mailboxes were vandalized and fell into severe disrepair. A USPS worker was harmed and USPS asked for a remedy to ensure their workers’ safety. In fact, the mailboxes were becoming unsafe for not only workers but for residents too. PCC created a plan to purchase new mailboxes and move these new mailboxes into the laundry room, with the unilateral decision to lock the facility on weekends and before 9 am and after 5 pm weekdays. Residents, particularly those that worked regular business hours, protested against this change; they signed petitions, went to Commissioner’s meetings and suggested viable alternatives. These suggestions also included adequate access for residents. While PCC promised key card access to the mailroom for residents only, this promise has not been fulfilled. Additionally, after Task Force outreach, the local postmaster demanded that PCC open the mailroom with adequate access. To this day, there is a completed and updated laundry/ mailbox facility but it remains closed by 150 Highland Ave Executive Staff of PCC.
The issue of safe and readily available access to PT Barnum Apartment mailboxes has been a problem for some time – highlighted for PCC when a US Postal worker was held at gunpoint while delivering to PT Apartments. Yet, the mailboxes were being broken into and vandalized and unsafe for residents too. In response to this concern (four years later), PCC unilaterally proposed to move the mailboxes into the laundry room and restrict access to them, locking the laundry room before 9 am and after 5 pm on weekdays and all day on weekends. This was an attempt to secure USPS workers. However, residents who worked during normal business hours noted that this was extremely inconvenient and prevented residents from getting their regular mail, as well as notices from PCC in a timely fashion. In total, residents:
- Circulated a petition
- The Task Force spoke at Commissioner’s meetings
- Front line PCC staff and resident leadership worked on a resident-focused solution – PCC discussed giving residents key card access to mailboxes (but recently reneged on the plan).
- After unilateral decision by PCC, Task Force approached the Post Master for support
- Ultimately, the local postmaster demanded that the room be opened and that residents have full-time access to mail. Residents still do not have full-time access to these new mailboxes – nearly six months later.
The resident perspective has been blocked from Housing Commissioner meetings, where decisions are being made that directly affect residents
The Resident Council is an independent empowerment group, mandated by HUD to represent low-income public housing residents’ interests and support their self-determination (and comes with funding). The Resident Advisory Board is a separate entity to advise and support good HUD policy, such as the 5-Year Plan. Commissioner’s Meetings gather monthly to hear residents at public comment and to hold its meetings regarding budget and policies for PCC. Residents of PT Barnum have been blocked from attending meetings, from holding elections to determine officers and forming an active body to get its work done. This means that all of the information gathered through the Task Force and PTP has no place where it really counts— where budgetary decisions are being made. Changes are being made to rectify this reality.
Housing regulations require resident input into policy-making. The President of the resident- elected PT Resident Council should attend PCC Commissioner meetings. However, as was the case for more than a year, the Council was prevented from having meetings and elections, and has been turned away from Resident Advisory Board (RAB) meetings despite an expressed interest on behalf of residents to attend meetings. Further, on several occasions, the Commissioner meeting has been changed without notice to residents and, in other cases, last minute changes have been made to meetings without any communication to residents. Further, opportunities to contribute to plans and policies are not adequately posted nor communicated – no communal spaces at PT Barnum. Any attempt to create this space, e.g. Gary Crooks or police sub-station are blocked. No such intentional spaces exist to gather, learn, and discuss shared interests on PT Barnum property.
While reviewing online HUD policies concerning RAB and obtaining a copy of their local bylaws from Connecticut Legal Services (CLS) in 2018, it was confirmed that HUD regulations require that a Resident Council President be elected by other residents. Stagnant for over a year due to interference by RAB and PCC, the PT Resident Council held local elections. A local organization gave oversight to the elections. Elections were held February 25, 2020 and twelve PT residents have enthusiastically volunteered to take part in the Resident Council Board for PT Barnum.