Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Old Heave-Ho

Someone posted a comment recently that stated "Even with increased enforcement by the cops, the commonwealth attorney will decline to prosecute or the judge will give a meaningless sentence, and ARHA will decline to evict people who are tossing trash and blaring radios all night."

Time for a reality check. ARHA does attempt to evict tenants, and at a board meeting several months ago, the Growler learned why it doesn't happen more frequently. The subject at that meeting was unauthorized individuals living with ARHA tenants, but it's likely similar hurdles face ARHA when it attempts to evict for other causes, including unruly or criminal behavior.

There are two reasons evictions are difficult:

1. The legal system needs corroborating testimony that unauthorized tenants have been seen living in the ARHA apartment with the leaseholder. Apparently other tenants are reluctant to do this, even if they are concerned about the situation. It's likely they are fearful of repercussions.

2. There is at least one judge in Alexandria Circuit Court who is reluctant to evict the legitimate tenant and leave them homeless in order to throw out their illicit guests. This has been a source of concern and disappointment to ARHA's board and staff.

The Growler isn't sure what can be done about judges, since they are appointed. Nevertheless, ARHA could encourage and help build stronger resident councils. These tenant groups could help manage and self-police the projects, making it safer for the law-abiding residents.

But as the Growler knows from past board meetings, ARHA's executive management doesn't seem to take resident council concerns seriously. The case of the elderly Ladrey representatives and their complaints about the lobby security cameras being disabled or unmonitored comes to mind.

The fact that effective tenant leadership hasn't been encouraged in public housing is just one more indicator that the City's social policies are not enabling but essentially paternalistic.