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BU-GATA
                                   PO Box 3824
                             Arlington, Virginia 22203
                                   703-302-5140

                                                                           March 7, 2007

Melissa Bondi, Chair
Housing Commission
Arlington, Virginia


Dear Ms. Bondi:

        This letter includes comments and recommendations of the BU-GATA Tenants
Association which represents tenants at the Buckingham Village Apartments. Our
representatives have been attending the Community Preservation Committee meetings
during the past several months. These meetings looked at various issues regarding the
affordable housing and relocation plans for the proposed Buckingham Village
redevelopment project for Villages 1 and 3. While we support many of the
recommendations, we would like to make clear that there are some issues that we feel
need to be an integral part of the affordable housing program.

         “Preserving the community” was an essential component of the MOU that was
signed last Summer between the County and Paradigm. For us, that means that our
families and households can continue to live in Buckingham. If that goal is to be
accomplished, we would point out the following important tools to ensuring that this is a
reality. The following outlines our concerns:

        1. Establishment of a Tenant Assistance Fund for those households earning
below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). The proposed affordable housing package
assumes that all households will earn approximately 60% or more of the AMI. We know
from our many meetings and one-on-one interviews with tenants that this is not the case.
We have attached the survey results that we collected from existing tenants over the past
12 months. You will note that 67% of the 34 tenants surveyed indicated their annual
household income was below 60 % of the AMI. In addition, Paradigm presented survey
data they collected from Village 2 tenants, and that data confirms BU-GATA’s data: 67%
of the 77 households in Village 2 earned below 60% of the AMI. The range of incomes at
the complex. We have attached the entire demographic analysis so you can see for
yourselves what we are talking about.
        We would like to point out that the County approved a Tenant Assistance Fund
for the Gates of Ballston tenants whose households were below 60% of AMI. That fund
allows current Gates tenants to continue to reside in the complex once renovation is
complete, even though the rents increase. We recommend you establish a similar fund
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for the Buckingham Village Affordable Housing plan.

        2. Establishment of a Hardship fund. As part of the Arna Valley Affordable
Housing Program, the County established a fund to help tenants during this process. We
think the fund was paid for by the developer and was funded in increments of $5,000.
This fund was used sparingly, but it helped tenants who had difficult situations resolve
rent payments. This helped keep tenants from becoming homeless or being forced to
relocate prior to receiving their 120-day notice and their relocation payment. Paradigm
does not want to pay any relocation payments to tenants who have not received the 120-
day notice. We believe that the Housing Commission should establish this fund.
Paradigm should pay for this fund. Paradigm has acknowledged that they do not have the
expertise to decide who needs this assistance. Therefore, a non-profit should manage the
case load and establish rules for expenditures. We recommend establishment of a
hardship fund.

         3. Establishment of a Working Group to monitor implementation of the
affordable housing and relocation plan. Over the past several years, our experience
indicates that forced displacement and return to renovated or newly constructed
affordable units is a difficult and traumatic process. Many of the tenants end up leaving
because they cannot handle the paperwork process or meet all the developer’s conditions
for qualifying for their units. The County is investing a lot of resources to ensure that
existing tenants who are forced to move can also qualify for the new units. To ensure that
the goals of both the affordable housing and relocation plans are met, the County has
established working groups to monitor this process. (examples of this model include:
Arna Valley, Columbia Heights West, and Gates of Ballston). While each model was a
little different, these working groups have been invaluable to the success of the housing
and relocation plans. We recommend establishment of a Buckingham Village
Working Group composed of representatives from Paradigm, members of the
Housing Commission, Tenant/Landlord Commission, community representatives,
and County Staff.

        4. Communication between tenants and Paradigm: Our experience shows that
the relationship between the owner/manager and the tenant is often difficult. The plans
approved by the County contemplate certain benefits for the tenant. However, as an
individual tenant or household tries to get through the process, the tenant gets confused
and/or fails to comply with certain regulations or paperwork. Many tenants find the
whole process daunting. They have been paying their rent on time for many years, and
they are not accustomed to the complicated “forced relocation” and “opportunity to return
to new units” process. Many tenants are afraid and just move out. To avoid this situation,
it is important that the Housing Commission establish a process or designate an entity to
work one-on-one with the tenants to make sure tenants take advantage of all the benefits
and programs available to them. We recommend that the Housing Commission ask
that a non-profit, like BU-GATA, be officially designated to work with the tenants
during the relocation process.

       5. Clear public documentation and presentation of proposed rent structure
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for both affordable and market rate units: During the many meetings of the CPC, BU-
GATA has requested over and over that Paradigm explain their proposed rent structure.
Until recently, Paradigm refused to present this information. At our last meetings,
Paradigm provided a question and answer sheet with the proposed affordable rents for the
new mixed-income building. The proposed market rate rents have only been presented
orally at the Tenant/Landlord Commission meeting. It is critical that tenants have access
to this information in clear, written form. We recommend that the Housing
Commission require Paradigm to present this information as soon as possible in a Q
and A form that is available to all tenants, as well as the general public.

        6. Commitment to improve maintenance at Buckingham Village. The tenants
are concerned that Paradigm Management is not maintaining the property. The County
must require that this complex and the housing conditions meet code and that these units
continue to provide decent and sanitary housing for the many households that reside
there. Given the deteriorating condition of many of the units and the older systems, it is
even more important that the County be vigilant regarding upkeep and maintenance.
Paradigm has stated publicly that only 76 units will be sent 120-day notices in the first
relocation phase that will begin in May or June, 2007. The rest of the complex, a total of
296 units will continue to be rented and occupied by tenants. MAINTENANCE
CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE TO GO DOWNHILL. Lights need to be
replaced, common areas holes need to be filled, leaking roofs need to be fixed, and rat
infestation needs to be brought under control. We recommend that the Housing
Commission require Paradigm to comply with code and not penalize tenants who
request maintenance compliance.

       Thank you for your attention to these issues.

       Sincerely,

       Lois Athey, Executive Director, BU-GATA


Attachment: Demographic Analysis of Buckingham Village tenants

Cc: Members of the Housing Commission
 Analysis of demographics, income ranges and size of units at Buckingham Village
                            (Dec 2005-December 2006)

                     Prepared by BU-GATA Tenants Association
                               Date: January 18, 2007

Current Buckingham Village rents, apartment configuration and demographics: As
of September 2006, one-bedroom rentals range from $955-$1,115, two-bedroom units
range from $1,200-$1,325, three-bedroom units cost $1,500 on the average. There are
372 units, with the following unit size breakdown: 1 is an efficiency, 167 are one-
bedrooms, 188 are two-bedrooms, and 16 are three-bedroom units. There are a number of
Section 8 residents currently at the complex, most of whom are white and/or African
American. A majority of the residents (approximately 80-86%) at the complex are Latino
households who pay market rate rents and receive no rental subsidies. Many Hispanic
households are families, extended families, or single males. There are some current
residents who have lived at the complex for 12-30 years. There are also senior citizens
and persons with disabilities. There are many families with young children who attend
Barrett Elementary School. The complex allows tenants to have pets. Management does
not currently require residents to provide social security numbers when applying for units
at the complex.

One of the issues has been to gauge the interest that current residents have in becoming
homeowners at Buckingham Village. Below is information collected and analyzed by
BU-GATA.

Village 2 households who moved to Villages 1 & 3 in the Spring of 2006: According
to Paradigm statistics, 26 households moved from Village 2 to Villages 1 and 3. Several
of these families are interested in purchasing homeownership options.

BU-GATA, BRAVO and County staff held a homeownership information session in
November 2006. In addition, BU-GATA and BRAVO staff have met with tenants over
the past few months to gauge their interest in homeownership opportunities. Below is
information that has been collected for 38 households who have expressed interest in
homeownership at Buckingham Village.

Country of origin and/or Ethnic/racial breakdown:
      Hispanics:      27
      United Kingdom: 1
      Hong Kong:        1
      USA:              5
      Sudan:           1
      Bangladesh       2
      Nepal             1
      Total            38
Current unit size and household size for residents interested in
homeownership opportunities


Size of                        Current Household size
bedroom
            1        2       3              4         5          6
            person   persons persons        persons   persons    persons
1           7        3       1              1         1
bedroom
2                               9           6         2          1
bedroom
3                                                     1
bedroom
Tenants                         1                     1
who are
not on
leases
Totals      7        3          11          7         5          1

Information was lacking for 4 households.

Analysis of Income Ranges at Buckingham Village

There are two sources of income data for Buckingham Village:

(1) According to Paradigm Survey and file data for Village 2 residents, the income ranges
were as follows:

       Annual Income         Number of households
       $0-$40,000                 29
       $40,000-$60,000            23
       $60,001-$80,000            10
       $80,000 and up              8
       Student                     1
       Information not clear       6
       Total                      77

Date of information: Spring 2006
(2) According to individual interviews conducted by BU-GATA, BRAVO and County
staff with Buckingham Village 1 and 3 tenants, the self-reported income ranges for those
interested in homeownership opportunities were as follows:

Household Below           40-60%       60-80%       80-100%      Above        Totals
size      40% of          of AMI       of AMI       of AMI       100% of
          AMI                                                    AMI
1         1               1            1                         3            6
2         2               1                         1            1            5
3         2               5            1            1                         9
4         1               3            1            1            1            7
5         6                                                                   6
6                         1                                                   1
Totals    12              11           3            3            5            34

Date of information: Winter 2006
Area Median Income based on March 8, 2006 AMI income limits
Four households did not submit income information.
None of the Section 8 tenants are included in this universe.

Number of children at the complex:
Of the 38 households interested in homeownership opportunities, 14 (39%) have children
under 18 years.

Length of tenancy at Buckingham Village:
Not surprisingly, many of the households interested in homeownership opportunities
have lived for over six years at the complex and/or in the Buckingham neighborhood:

Number of years of residency in Buckingham Village and/or Buckingham
neighborhood
Less than 1 1-5 years    6-12 years 13-33 years No information Totals
year
1           13           10         12           2               38