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Worthington housing agency receives $139k

WORTHINGTON -- As part of the annual capital fund program, the Worthington Housing and Redevelopment Authority was awarded money through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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"It's to make capital improvements to our public housing properties," explained Worthington HRA executive director Randy Thompson. "In Worthington, it includes the atrium, of course, and then we have 12 or 15 additional sites, single family homes, duplexes and some of the units on Lucy Drive that are public housing sites. That money can only be used for capital improvements to those units. It's how we upkeep our units each year."

Worthington was awarded $139,032.

"That's almost the same as what we had last year," Thompson said. "I was actually anticipating it would be even less than that. We got $142,000 last year."

Other surrounding cities also received money. Jackson received $73,244. Luverne received $59,225, Mountain Lake was awarded $37,232, Pipestone got $107,425 and Windom received $76,688.

"We've been waiting for this announcement for about six months," Thompson said. "Usually we know in the first three months of the year what we're going to get for capital funds. With the way things are in Washington right now, it's taken this long to figure out how much money we're going to get."

The money can't be used for building, but is earmarked for improvement projects.

"This funding is critical for housing authorities to maintain and improve public housing conditions for their residents," HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a release. "However, with a significant repair backlog, I am encouraged by new, innovative long-term solutions HUD is exploring that can be combined with this funding to not only protect and preserve this housing for the next generation, but to also build the quality infrastructure necessary for families to thrive."

In Worthington, Thompson is hoping to use the money for many projects throughout the city.

"I can't build new with it, all I can do is upkeep existing. I can tell you over half of it will go toward homes where I have not gotten the windows replaced and they need to be replaced," he said. "So I'll have a few homes where the windows are being replaced, I need some new exterior doors on quite a few of them. It's things like that. The main ones are floor coverings, furnace upgrades, windows, siding, shingles and stuff like that."

There are 136 units of public housing in Worthington.

"As far as I know, and I've looked back through the records, our local housing authority has received capital improvement funds each year to upkeep our properties," Thompson said. "When you have 136 units of public housing, we got about $1,000 per unit. When we go to put all new windows in a house, that can be a $15,000 or $20,000 project alone in one house. Last year, when I look at what we did with the capital funds, I think we got about five or six projects funded."

And while this money won't be used for the new 36-unit complex in the works, that project -- Rising Sun Estates -- has been delayed.

"That project is somewhat stalled right now because there is an issue with the piece of property itself that we're trying to buy," Thompson said. "Most of all of our bids have come in excess of what we had been estimated on the front end. We're doing some re-calibrating with the project. The biggest issue right now is we can't even buy the piece of land, there is some title issues with the land that need to be worked out between the current owner and some adjoining property owners."

At this point, he wasn't sure if the anticipated Nov. 1 opening would be feasible.

"I don't know when that project is going to be able to keep moving forward. It's things that can be worked out," Thompson said. "It's disputes over property lines and that sort of thing. That's causing a delay in that project."

The other issue has been with preliminary bids coming in too high.

"With any luck we'll have some things in order so we know we can keep pushing forward," Thompson said. "We don't own the piece of land right now, the housing partnership owns the land and obviously we're going to buy it from them. But they can't sell it to us right now because of the issues going on with the title.

"It's not anything that any other projects haven't encountered," he continued. "It's just takes time. Unfortunately, it continues to drag out something that we need to have happen in this town and that's more market-rate rental properties."