Mission Housing Authority resident Fedelia Valdez doesn’t mind not using her air conditioner.
The 73-year-old resides at the housing authority’s three-story high rise building and says that she’s fine with just the ceiling fan to keep her cool in her one-bedroom apartment. Besides, she told Mission Housing Authority board members, ants fly out of her AC unit every time she has it on.
“You can tell there’s something under the wall there,” Valdez said as she pointed to her AC unit.
Valdez recounted this to members of the Mission Housing Authority who were touring the premises Saturday, Jan. 11. Board directors and department heads had orientations that same day to discuss their roles and set goals for the housing authority. This was followed by a tour of the housing authority’s high rise building and other living facilities for residents.
“The purpose is to give an orientation to the board for them to be familiar with the operation of the housing authority so whenever issues are presented to them they will be able to make informed decisions.” board President Connie Garza said. “We will be able to use the information to set some performance goals and things we want to address while we’re here.”
During the tour of the high rise building, board Vice President Irma Flores-Lopez pointed out to several discrepancies she had been talking about while serving on the board in the last year. This included: a lack of a sign in sheet at the front desk, several entrance ways without any ramps, wasp nests under staircases, narrow doors and hallways that she said might make it difficult for residents in wheelchairs to navigate in and carports without any lighting.
“I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me,” the housing authority’s new Executive Director Antonio “Tony” Sandoval said during the tour.
During the tour, Flores-Lopez stressed the importance of safety to housing authority residents and said these discrepancies highlighted issues that could put residents at risk.
“The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development advocates safe and decent housing, ” Flores-Lopez said during the tour. “We need to do more inspections of all of our properties.”
The issue of safety is one that Flores-Lopez and Garza have brought up since they started their terms on the board. Last fall they denied grant funds for their Palm Plaza Development senior center due to safety concerns of letting members of the public using the center. Flores-Lopez also highlighted the need of more security at the high rise after residents complained of a homeless man found spending the night under one of the unlit carports, she said.
“I’ve shared this kind of stuff before with public housing and with the old administration but was met with resistance,” Flores-Lopez said. “There shouldn’t be resistance to this, it’s about improving living conditions.”
According to Public Housing Director Florencia Ortiz Alaniz, residents are supposed to report any discrepancies to them so the maintenance department that she oversees can resolve these issues. The maintenance department receives between seven to 10 calls a day and does yearly inspections of the housing authority facilities.
Executive Director Sandoval said the housing authority needs to address these issues.
“But we have to figure out the money first,” he said. “I’d have to get an assessment and cost estimate and check on the budget in detail to see if there’s money there and stretch it as much as we can.”
Sandoval said the housing authority may have to hire a third party to do the cost assessment before they begin prioritizing what projects to work on and added that there was no idea how long it would take to do that.
“We definitely want to prioritize maintenance issues that involve health and safety. Time wears out a lot of things, I’m not pointing fingers but sometimes things get neglected because of the workload.” Sandoval said “We wish there were more hours in the day to take care of this but we’ll get it done.”
Board Director Jesus Cantu said that ultimately, these kind of improvements is to make it better for residents.
“I am excited about coming onboard and [improving] the housing community for our residents,” Cantu said. “During the tour we’ve met with residents who agreed to let us into their home and they seem to be nice homes with several of them saying that they’ve lived here for decades and have had no major issues that weren’t addressed. There are a lot of stuff that have come out of this tour but several residents seem happy and the best we can do is ensure we keep them happy.”
This article originally appeared in the Friday Jan. 17, 2020 issue of the Progress Times.