By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Last night's monthly Housing and Redevelopment Authority meeting was a study in efficiency, mostly a matter of housekeeping – no pun intended.
The only item that prompted discussion was the last – renewal of a five-year contract with Vintage Grace, a low-income residential assisted living complex that provides adult day care and services to the elderly.
And the only discussion centered on provisions of the original contract, eight riders outlined by HUD, that had not previously been seen by the current housing authority members.
“I was trying to wrap my head around these riders,” said board member Fred Tompkins, who struggled with the legalese that Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Fleig noted is typical for HUD documents.
“These riders go back to the original contract, from 1999, and are somewhat irrelevant. But they're required, and they need to be here,” Fleig said. “The most important ones to me are that we don't discriminate and we rent to people of low income,”
Vintage Grace offers 15 “closet sized” dwelling units – smaller than efficiency apartments, which are rented to qualifying elderly residents considered to be in frail health and in need of medical supervision, which is provided during the day.
The unique complex also offers adult daycare and meals, said Fleig. It is run by an independent non-profit organization whose motto is “aging with dignity and grace,” a group that has had a good working relationship with the Housing Authority over the years.
However, the current economy has forced Vintage Grace management to seek help with the monthly $2,500 rent, seeking forgiveness of $1,000 of the $2,500 for the months of July and August from the housing authority.
Fleig said that it is only the second time in the past three years that Vintage Grace has asked for help with the rent, and given the tough times everyone is facing, he was not terribly concerned.
Tompkins said his main concern is whether it signals a trend – the monthly rent from Vintage Grace represents a good chunk of the Housing Authority's budget, which is tight.
However, there are greater hurdles for the Housing Authority – which continues to maintain a three-year waiting list for federally-subsidized housing requests.
“The list generally tops 300, yet we are allowed only 100 HUD vouchers for the town of Derry, and so you get the picture,” said Town Councilor David Milz, who serves as the liaison to the housing authority board.
Derry is one of 19 statewide sanctioned housing authorities. HUD determines how many supplemental housing vouchers it will make available to any given housing authority, a number that never seems to budge, no matter how great the need, Milz said.
So far this year there have been 76 new requests for low-income housing in Derry. Six slots which have become available were quickly filled by those who have been languishing on the list for years.
“When the list gets up around 350, Robert goes back and starts over, culling the list and seeing where we stand,” said Milz. “We request more vouchers from HUD even though they don't take requests.”
The contract with Vintage Grace was renewed by the Housing Authority through 2015, and will continue based on HUD requirements through 2020. The building was sold to the Housing Authority in 1999 for $1.
“Vintage Grace is a good organization. They do good work and they're good tenants. I don't think there's another organization in Derry that does exactly what they do, or that serves this population,” Fleig said. “I hope they stay for as long as they want.”