Standing in front of the Kenilworth-Parkside public housing development in Northeast Washington, D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy said yesterday that the complex was one of the "best examples Congress can find" of effective management.
Kenilworth-Parkside is managed by tenants. Fauntroy and Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) used it as a backdrop to promote their bill that would encourage tenant management throughout the country.
About 40 tenant groups nationwide have expressed an interest in resident management. It is unclear how many public housing projects are managed by tenants.
Successful tenant managers say they have reduced operating costs and the number of vacant units.
"Tenant management of public housing units is an idea whose time has come and I'm confident that we are going to be successful," said Fauntroy.
Under the bill, tenant management groups would be exempt from government regulations that tend to increase a project's operating costs. In addition, excess revenues could be used to improve maintenance and to establish businesses. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could provide up to $100,000 to pay for technical assistance.
Kemp, who is a sponsor of Fauntroy's bill, said tenant management is a step toward allowing people to manage their own destinies. He said he would urge the Reagan administration to support the bill.
Earlier, leaders of tenant management groups from around the country supported the bill at a hearing before the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs subcommittee on housing and community development.
Kimi Gray, the tenant leader for Kenilworth-Parkside, said welfare dependency had been greatly reduced in the four years that tenants have been managing the 464-unit project. Kenilworth-Parkside was also praised by Fauntroy for increasing rent collections by 150 percent and cutting administrative operating costs by 60 percent.
Bertha Gilkey, president of the Cochran Tenant Management Corporation in St. Louis, told the subcommittee that she had gradually watched her high-rise apartment building turn from a "beautiful place to live" into a "jungle." She said rats walked up the side of the building, several floors were abandoned for 12 years, and drug pushers moved into vacant units.
"Only we can make the quality of life better in our community," said Gilkey. "We put back standards. We said, 'if you live in our community, you must buy into the concept.' "
Leaders from the tenant management programs will attend a management training and technical assistance conference during the next three days sponsored by the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, a Washington-based research and development group.
Robert L. Woodson, president of the group and head of a group of black conservatives called Council for a Black Economic Agenda, told the panel that passage of the bill would send a message that Congress is willing to "begin to support the self-help efforts of poor people."