Tenants of Suncrest Court want better living conditions
By Jimmie Davis, Jr.
Residents of Suncrest Court are trying to establish their United Resident Council (URC) and call for a meeting to nominate officers. Normally when a meeting is held, it’s in the community center – but residents were not allowed to use the facility and had to hold the meeting outside under a tree, in the heat with pesky insects and noisy vehicles passing by that were constantly interrupting their meeting.
In spite of the obstacles that tenants faced, they still held their meeting and had the opportunity to introduce residents interested in running as an officer of the Suncrest Resident Council Board of Directors. The meeting also gave the residents the occasion to address their dissatisfaction about the way things are transpiring at Suncrest Court.
“The housing authority is stereotyping people saying that residents just want to live off welfare and don’t want to work,” said Rachel Johnson, community organizer during the meeting. “Residents are sick and tired of the housing authority violating their rights that HUD has set forth.”
Mae Williams, 53, has been a tenant of Suncrest Court for 22 years and past president of the URC for 13 years. She says leadership is desperately needed so residents can get their voices heard, activities can take place, and units can have proper maintenance.
“We no longer have a board and the housing authority is using this as an excuse for residents to not have access to the community center,” said Williams. “Once we start our board there will be no more excuses.”
Williams says at one time things weren’t so bad at Suncrest Court because they had plenty of activities such as an efficient computer lab for the kids, talent shows that included poetry night, and entertainment for the elderly residents.
Tam English, executive director/CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale says his agency has always supported resident organizations at all sites.
“Due to past problems, we do not allow residents to have access to the community room without staff,” said English. “Due to budget cuts, we do not have staff available to have the facility open after hours on a regular basis.”
Residents say they are tired of paying their rent and when things in their unit break – they don’t get fixed. “They tell us to put in a work order and when we comply – nothing gets fixed,” said Peggy Bell, 56. “My kitchen cabinets are falling off the wall.”
Willa Brown, 70, says her roof leaks and that it takes forever to get her unit repaired.
“Our units have mold and mildew that was never fixed,” said Brown. “They just came in and painted over it.”
English says the computer lab has been removed because of a lack of funding and that his maintenance staff is on-site daily and that all problems are ad-dressed on a timely basis.
“We have replaced 32 out of 34 roofs at the site in the last five years,” said English. “To my knowledge, they are all leak free.”
Shekeen Williams, 18, a resident and student attending Broward College, is running for the vice presidency of the URC, and wants her living conditions improved.
Furthermore, she’s concerned about the lack of funds that HUD has allocated for the residents. Johnson agrees and says HUD is supposed to operate just like a business when it comes to the $25 per month that’s distributed towards each unit.
“What are they doing with your money?” asked Johnson. “I have no idea as to where the money is going. The residents sure aren’t getting it. We had to purchase the refreshments for the meeting with our own money!”
English says the Housing Authority has stopped giving funds to the URC, but his agency will reimburse residents for expenses that are approved.
“This guarantees that the funds are properly spent in accordance with HUD rules,” English said. “Some sites that are more active have used these funds. Suncrest Court has not been very active in recent years and the funds have not been used. In the case of Suncrest Court, the maximum that we are allowed to spend is $1,650 per year. There is no pot of un-used funds as HUD has not funded this for over six years.”
Travis Brown, 23, also running for vice president, has concerns about the lack of a play-ground for the children. He says that when he first moved in about 10 years ago there used to be a playground for the children, but it has been torn down and not replaced.
English says that the playground equipment was demolished because it was unsafe for the children.
“The capital assessment for this site identified 3.5 million dollars in capital needs for items such as new roofs, plumbing and electric upgrades, windows, air conditioning and kitchens,” English said. “There is less than $200,000 available per year to meet these needs. Oblivious then, there has not been funding available for new playground equipment.”
Candidates shared their political platform and expressed their desires of becoming elected to the Board. Now according to the bylaws of HUD’s statute 964 public housing regulations, residents have 30 days to decide on who they are going to cast their votes for.
Additionally, 30 days must pass before an election can transpire, and that’s when residents of Suncrest Court can get back in the business of taking care of their beloved community.