The board of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville, shown here in June, recently agreed to XXX. Matt Rose/Carolina Public Press

ASHEVILLE — Amid an ongoing debate about the future of public housing, leaders of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville have agreed to a number of demands put forward by a coalition of residents and local nonprofits.

The requests involved concerns about transparency and representation as the agency pursues a major overhaul in financing and management, joining the federal program known as Rental Assistance Demonstration.

At a June 25 meeting, after a debate about transparency concerns, the authority’s board voted unanimously to move forward with the next step of converting to the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, though final approval won’t happen until another meeting later this month.

The Public Housing Advocacy Coalition, made up of residents and representatives of local nonprofits, presented a letter before the June meeting, asserting that the conversion process wasn’t open enough and didn’t take residents’ concerns and complaints into account. It called for a delay, more information sessions and more representation for residents on the board overseeing RAD’s implementation.

About 30 people, mostly public housing residents, packed the meeting, and several voiced their concerns, even as housing authority officials acknowledged they needed to improve their methods of informing tenants.

Afterwards, Pisgah View Association President Iindia Pearson told Carolina Public Press that “I feel like a lot of our concerns were addressed appropriately,” but that tenants still hadn’t been adequately heard about the details of the proposal.

Less than 24 hours later, an email from the agency’s Chief Executive Officer Gene Bell and Chief Operating Officer David Nash agreed to hold more meetings, asking the coalition to work with the Residents’ Council in organizing them. They also agreed to use a third-party facilitator in these meetings.

“We are both committed to holding as many meetings as we can with residents between now and the Board’s final vote on the RAD conversion,” the email read.

It also agreed to add two residents of the Council’s choosing to the Rental Assistance Demonstration transition team.

However, to keep the agency on track to receive federal funding, the email indicated that the vote will still likely take place in late July as originally planned.

Nicole Hinebaugh, director of the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation and one of the organizers of the coalition, said in an email to coalition supporters that the move was “a great step forward.” The group plans to meet later this week to discuss the details of cooperating with the agency.

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David Forbes is a former contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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