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Criteria Worries Aired To Housing Commission

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Criteria Worries Aired To Housing Commission

By Virginia Westover

Citizen interest — and concern — in the Housing Commission was apparent at last night’s meeting.

Criteria for admitting low-income housing applicants was the topic of spokesmen for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Civil Rights Coordinating Council.

The commission is considering the first draft of criteria it las drawn up to be submitted with its application to the Public Housing Administration (PHA). The commission is seeking PHA funds to provide temporary, emergency housing under Section 23 on leased housing of the 1965 Federal Housing Act.

Of concern was the proposed criteria item under selection policies concerning “responsible character of the applicant.”

In a prepared statement, the Rev. Ralph Parvin of the Civil Rights Coordinating Council said, “it must be recognized that among depressed people of all races and all nations "responsibility" is a habit and skill which through years of deprivation may become buried.

“If the concept and language of requiring responsibility as a prerequisite cannot be removed entirely from the standards, it ought to be made explicitly clear that it should be interpreted most broadly. Merely the concept that an official of the city is to examine an applicant and judge him responsible or irresponsible is an invitation to arbitrary administrative judgment which will further humiliate those who have already been depressed,” the Rev. Mr. Parvin said.

It was suggested in the statement that to help bring a person to a condition of responsibility in a city housing program, a remedial housing occupancy skills program be considered. It listed homemaking, child care, health and budgeting as areas in which: existing social services agencies could assist families embarking on their venture into decent housing.

Coordinating council members expressed Concern that people who desperately need housing and assistance would not be able to get it because past records would be held against them.

However, Commissioner Lyndon Welch, who along with Joseph W. Edwards drew up the criteria, explained that they had tried to make the criteria general and not necessarily binding in form, following patterns in many other cities having housing commissions.

“We are trying to get people in, (to housing) not keep them out,” Welch said.

As an example, Welch cited the hypothetical example of a woman who had to leave her five children home each day in order to work, and another, woman who left her five children alone to sit in the neighborhood tavern all day. Both needed housing.

“Until we are in a position to provide housing for both, we I would have to make a choice, Welch said. He indicated that this might be where consideration of responsibility might come in.

It was noted that this particular set of criteria is being prepared for the commission's application for PHA for the particular kind of emergency housing, and that criteria for large, long-range housing needs in the city would probably differ somewhat.

The civil rights council also expressed its hope that standards for the sort of homes to be purchased '‘be considered, too; that housing units be dispersed around the city; that the residence requirement (listed as a year, at any time), be expanded to include families in which one or more adults have held full time employment in] Ann Arbor.

Hope for a type of "master plan" in purchasing housing was also raised by the audience, wherein civic groups interested in purchasing housing to be leased, through the mission, to needy families could have some guidelines to follow.

Mrs. Albert H. Wheeler, president of the local NAACP branch, read a letter in which it was suggested that the commission set up a public meeting for the purpose of “having the commission clarify its criteria of eligibility and also receive suggestions from interested individuals and groups.”

It also expressed hope that the commission “cooperate with the Ann Arbor Board of Education in its program to correct and-or prevent racial imbalance considered by the commission, in the public schools.”

The letter also noted problems of school attendance for children who are part of the Jones School transfer. "Unless housing is found within the boundaries of the school which they now attend, it will be necessary for the children to change schools again," it said.

At the end of the three-hour meeting, after which the commissioners went into an executive session to consider possible candidates for a director, the study of long-range needs for low rent housing in the city was discussed.

“This is one reason why we are so anxious to find our man (a director).” Chairman Henry V. Aquinto noted. “With a director we can make such a study, which is very much needed. We wish to have at our fingertips facts and figures regarding any long-range program here. We must be able to back up any plan for for long-ranges needs here."

Such factors as scope of the study,  how it will be carried out, financing and studies which are already available are being considered by the commission.

Meanwhile, the commission decided to ask City Council for the go-ahead in its application for Section 23 leased housing–an answer to immediate emergency needs–at Feb. 7 meeting.

In the interim, the final touches will be put to the lengthy application form and the commission will test its accompanying criteria on the list of 36 families in need of emergency housing which the City's Housing Relations Department has compiled. 

Other audience participation at last night’s meeting came from Hal Siegel, who suggested that a citizens advisory committee to the commission be formed.

"Such a committee could act a clearing house for interested groups,” Siegel noted, "and could be a means of communication with the commission. It could provide the commissioners with a single spokesmen for the variety of organizations interested in the city's housing problem."