Portsmouth Housing Authority holds ‘specially called’ board meeting

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority (PRHA) held a “specially called” Board of Commissioners’ meeting Wednesday evening.

Shortly after the meeting started at 6 p.m., the board moved to a nearly two-hour closed session to discuss personnel and legal matters, as well as Afton Green.

At the same time, 10 On Your Side received information that the authority may have delayed relief for Swanson Homes, where more than 30 residents have been without hot water and heat for more than two weeks.

Wednesday, a source provided 10 On Your Side with an email sent by the city manager to council.

It states: “[Department of Permits and Inspections Director Douglas] Smith attempted to inspect the properties today, but was informed that he would have to provide Swanson Homes twenty-four hours advance notice. This is the first time PRHA has required an advance notice dealing with this critical issue.”

10 On Your Side approached PRHA Interim Executive Director Donnell Brown about the claim, following a brief public session.

“[Smith] asked to see all of the units,” she said. “We’re required by law, anytime we go into a unit, unless it’s an emergency, we’re required by law to give them 24 hours notice.”

Brown said that the situation at Swanson Homes is no longer an emergency now that at-risk residents have been provided hotels and assistance.

“We have worked very hard to try to provide them with what they need.”

She said that every resident within the community now has notice of an inspection, and the inspector will be permitted to go there Thursday. An inspection on Wednesday would have been a violation, she said.

“And I don’t need to be in any violation of tenants’ rights.”

Brown, who was made the temporary executive director three months ago, has always been responsive to 10 On Your Side’s inquiries.

But on Wednesday, the authority’s chairperson Flossie Bridgeford again refused comment, after she dodged Andy Fox’s questions on Tuesday.

Recently, the housing authority’s problems have been piling up.

On Monday, 10 On Your Side found out that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will do an on-site review of PRHA in December.

In an Oct. 14 letter to Brown, HUD Satellite Office Director Paul Aprigliano wrote, “We will evaluate the Board of Commissioner’s ability to govern, examine financial operations and review internal control policies and procedures.”

HUD to conduct on-site review of Portsmouth Housing Authority

The HUD review follows a 10 On Your Side investigation, which showed that the PRHA board has lost the confidence of city leaders. In August, Portsmouth City Council members argued that council should take immediate steps to remove the authority’s board of commissioners.

Executive director of Portsmouth Housing Authority fired

Following an unsuccessful event in May, where hundreds turned up to receive housing vouchers only to be turned away, PRHA announced in July that it would only accept applications online. The day the application was made available online, the housing authority’s website was slow and sometimes unresponsive.

10 On Your Side’s Liz Kilmer was at the meeting. Follow her on Twitter for updates.