Disbanding the Summit Combined Housing Authority now on the table
November 23, 2016
Big changes could soon be coming to the Summit Combined Housing Authority.
The agency's board of directors met Wednesday morning in Frisco to begin considering a reorganization of operations. One proposed restructure could almost entirely dismantle the award-winning entity, which is charged with helping community members attain long-term housing within the county's towns and unincorporated areas.
With this alternative, internal personnel would no longer exist to offer current services such as homebuyer education classes, down-payment assistance, deed-restriction eligibility determinations and monitoring, or home-resale calculations, among several other programs. The idea is that if the housing authority's shoestring staff of four full-timers cannot meet growing demands across a multitude of diverse duties, to either add employees, or essentially dissolve it altogether.
"There are a boatload of activities," said Nicole Bleriot, interim executive director of the housing authority. "It is clear to me in my interim role that we're not able to service the complete expectations of these activities as we are currently staffed."
Instead, under that model, the housing authority would survive in little more than name for the primary purpose of acting as a vehicle to distribute upwards of $80 million over the next decade from the 5A construction fund approved by voters earlier this month. The board of directors would also be preserved for the sake of lending a designated body for future jurisdictional housing project partnerships.
The other two potential options discussed during the meeting included simply hiring a new executive director and maintaining the organization's present composition, or adopting a framework based on that of Summit's 911 emergency response dispatch center. The housing authority's board of directors would be retained in addition to its advisory group with that choice, though more of the support side of daily operations — resources like licensing and office management — would fall beneath the county government, while each municipality might tend to its own housing assistance programs.
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The analysis of the countywide housing agency comes on the heels of its longtime executive director, Jennifer Kermode, departing on unpleasant terms in early October. Kermode, who's for some years been thought of as a leader in the industry, asserts she was the victim of consistent discrimination and retaliatory tactics by the board — all of which individual members named in a corresponding document emphatically deny — and she is in the process of filing a lawsuit.
The board appointed Jim Curnutte, the county community development director, to a supervisory role, and subsequently Bleriot, currently the county housing director, to oversee the organization during the transition. The board has since directed the pair to review existing housing authority direction and performance to get a better handle on day-to-day function, as well as what changes might better suit the needs of each municipality and perhaps also improve consumer experience, to meet future goals.
"A lot of the problems that we've really started seeing to develop was a lack of oversight from the board on looking at what activities they were doing," said Frisco Councilwoman Kim Cancelosi, board secretary. "In the last four years the staff at the housing authority started developing their own program plan and started adding in a bunch of different stuff that didn't necessarily even come to the board."
The disbanding of a relationship between the Summit housing authority and Clear Creek County was also briefly addressed in Wednesday's agenda. The neighboring county previously had a member of staff working out of the Breckenridge office to increase their understanding of the purpose and procedures of a housing authority, but on Nov. 15 decided to develop its own individual organization. That arrangement will officially conclude next March.
An amendment to the projected 2017 housing authority budget to include $25,000 in legal reserves, up from $500, to contest Kermode's prospective litigation was also briefly discussed. However, the board tabled that, as well as the conversation on what the housing authority's restructure may look like, until its Dec. 7 meeting. Members noted they did not anticipate a final reorganization decision until at least January.