The Reagan administration has proposed eliminating federal subsidies for construction on new public-housing projects. A Metro article yesterday incorrectly stated that the administration has proposed elimination of all public-housing subsidies. The article also improperly identified Fayette Court in Alexandria as a public-housing development. It is a federally assisted housing development.
Bernice Miller, 65, said yesterday that she had always wanted a home of her own "and something out of life."
"Now I have a place I can afford, and I don't want to go anyplace else," the retired elevator operator told members of a congressional subcommittee on a field trip to the Fayette Court public housing development in Alexandria. "I wouldn't be able to get a house any other way."
Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Tex.), chairman of the House subcommittee on housing and community development, organized the tour of the Alexandria housing project and Kenilworth Courts/Parkside in Northeast Washington so members could get a first-hand look at two unusual public housing developments. Today, the subcomittee is scheduled to begin public hearings on President Reagan's budget proposal to eliminate all federal subsidies for public housing.
"We thought we would start the beginning of our Congress by coming out to the community," Gonzalez told Fayette Court residents. "This is the year of truth. The Congress either maintains the commitment to public housing it has had for years, or it doesn't."
Before Gonzalez took some members of his subcommittee and their staffs to Fayette Court, the only members of Congress Miller had seen were those who rode in the elevator she operated at the Department of Agriculture before she retired six years ago. A 10-year resident of Fayette Court, she lives in a one-bedroom apartment, where she pays $295 in rent out of her $758 monthly income from federal retirement and disability payments.
Four years ago, Miller's complex was almost sold for condominium conversion, which would have meant displacement for the low- to moderate-income residents who live in its 51 units. To preserve the neighborhood, Alexandria's Office of Housing and Micah Housing Inc., a nonprofit organization, purchased the apartments. Funding for the buyout, as well as for the planned renovation, was from city sources and federal programs.
Micah, which expects to complete renovation of the 40-year-old, three-story brick apartments by April 1986, will then allow tenants to buy their apartments for about $37,000, with down payments as low as $650.
Twenty-one of the units will be sold to tenants holding Section 8 Certificates, a program under which a resident pays no more than one-third of his salary for monthly rent or mortgage payments and the federal government pays the balance. The program could be eliminated by proposed budget cuts.
Madeline M. Petty, acting director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development staff, was also aboard the Metro bus that took observers to the two developments yesterday. The proposal to stop subsidizing public housing would have "a devastating effect" on the District, which has a waiting list of 13,000 for such housing, she said.
At Kenilworth in Northeast Washington, property manager Kimi Gray explained how three years ago residents formed the Kenilworth Courts/Parkside Resident Managers Corporation and took over from the city management of the 464 units in the low-income housing development. The corporation's operating budget comes from rents and a government subsidy.
"Those who planned for us in the past had not done a good job," said Gray. "We could do no worse. We set out to change the myth . . . that residents do not care for their property."
Then Gray led the group on a tour of businesses and services the residents have started, including a barber shop, food co-op, health clinic and employment office.
"I'm glad to have you folks here to tell you how a self-sufficient program is working," said Gray. "All we want is to have control of our destiny . . . something, you've had . . . . That's what you should take back to your offices."