A sunken driveway. Closets doors that roll off their tracks. Shabby storm windows.
Residents of public housing in Lawrence live with these imperfections every day. The Lawrence Housing Authority is too short on funds to clip all of these annoying maintenance hangnails.
But that will change soon, said Barbara Huppee, LHA executive director. A federal windfall is blowing Lawrence's way to pay for a five-year repairs program.
The funds will flow from money appropriated under the 1990 National Affordable Housing Act, Huppee said. Taxpayers are picking up the tab.
"Before, money for repairs came from our rents," said Huppee. "There were few funds available. This program recognizes the need for maintenance."
HUPPEE IS waiting to hear from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to learn how much the housing authority can expect next year. The housing authority in Topeka received $800,000 under the program, and Huppee said that $100,000 would "provide a meaningful amount of improvements" in Lawrence.
"We're planning, but we're planning in the dark," she said.
Before the housing authority can use the funds, officials must create a five-year, comprehensive plan for repairs. They are consulting city staff, neighborhood groups and especially tenants.
"THE TENANTS know most what is needed in their units," Huppee said.
The housing authority manages five communities Edgewood Homes, Babcock Place Apartments, and three groups of housing integrated into Lawrence neighborhoods, called scattered site housing. There are 318 units in all.
Housing authority officials huddled with tenants last week and early this week to take down a laundry list of suggested improvements.
"For example, in the original scattered sites, we need new closet doors," she said. "They are of inferior quality, and they don't stay on track."
Residents of a scattered site project at 12th Street and Rhode Island complained about a sunken parking lot. Elderly Babcock residents need thermostats with large print for easier reading. Some Edgewood tenants want central air.
"THIS IS what the tenants see as necessary," said Huppee. "We're going to look at that and see what is prudent and reasonable."
Tenants who couldn't attend the meetings will receive questionnaires.
City building inspectors will help LHA staff prioritize the repairs according to degree of severity and need.
LHA authorities also have invited members of neighborhood associations in the East Lawrence, Pinckney and Brook Creek neighborhoods to help plan repairs.
"The projects are located in their neighborhoods, so they have a vested interest in how we maintain the properties," Huppee said.
The comprehensive plan will schedule the needed maintenance over five years.
"This isn't all going to be done at once," Huppee said. The plan will be updated every year.
THE PLANNING document should be drafted by Oct. 1 and examined by the LHA board. Members of the public will get a chance to comment on it at a public hearing. Then the plan will be revised.
The LHA board will review the final draft at the end of the year, so HUD can receive it by January. Huppee expects the funds in April.