Northwest NEWS

March 27, 2000

Editorial

Wells Wood needs help

   Wells Wood Family Council could use your support. I am their representative to the new King County Resident Advisory Board.

   Our community in downtown Woodinville has thirty units with a mix of families, 1/3 Russian and Ukraine, 1/3 English-speaking, and 1/3 of the families are from Cambodia, Vietnam, Romania, El Salvador, and Bosnia. We call ourselves a mini-United Nations.

   Most of our families work or are in school; 1/4 of our families have physical challenges. As a small community, we have banded together for the good of our children. In 1991, we raised money for a playground. Our flower gardens are something to see. We also consider ourselves an active part of our city, and like other residents in our city, we have done everything we can to keep our trees and gardens. We rake leaves, sweep and pick up the garbage; we are proud of our neighborhood.

   Wells Wood was last on the list of Capital Improvements for the 1992-97 HUD grant money. We are one of the 50 public housing sites in King County. It is your tax dollars being spent. This last year has been a nightmare. With 200-plus-thousand dollars in improvements for Wells Wood, we have gone from a neighborhood that people thought were condos to looking like welfare housing.

   King County Housing Authority (KCHA) painted our natural cedar siding orange. In our homes, we have new refrigerators we can't clean without moving the whole fridge or taking both refrigerator doors off. Our new stoves are hot to the touch at 275 degrees. Residents have new windows with drafts worse than before the improvements; contractors left out insulation when they installed windows, etc. Again, these are your tax dollars at work.

   We, as tenants, have been lied to more times than I can count. We have had illegal entries, improper notice, and been subjected to poor quality workmanship that the private sector would never stand for.

   We begged to work with maintenance in order to cut their costs and save our trees. We were promised a chance to participate in color choices on our buildings and that we would and could work with KCHA in regard to our landscaping. Instead we have lost 20-plus trees, and we just lost a projected green space on the west side of the property.

   On the HUD blueprints of our complex, it shows that we have an existing designated community building with a community office. It has never been used except by KCHA to store fertilizer; therefore we have no place to hold Family Council meetings, ESL or anger management support classes, or host educational speakers.

   Now King County Housing Authority has a new 5-year plan with recommendations on how your federal tax dollars will be spent for the next five years. According to new federal laws (Feb. '98,) KCHA is required to have citizen input on the plan, with reasonable notice given for comments.

   We, as Wells Wood residents, have seen the waste of money, and have put in hundreds of hours and dollars (of our money) to do the job that King County inspectors and supervisors were paid to do and didn't do. We could use independent legal advice and public support of public officials requesting a stop to this kind of government waste.

   To make a long story short, we were happy to hear about the new Resident Advisory Board forming with KCHA. My council is reviewing current KCHA Housing Policy and the suggested changes very seriously. At this date, we have just started reviewing the KCHA Draft Agency Plan. (HUD 50075). We are told KCHA is a high-rating Housing Authority and that they are only required to do the short form. From our perspective, heaven help the residents of a low-performing Housing Authority. The answers to our letters from KCHA in regard to the policy do not address our questions and issues.

   We need time allowed to address issues and changes to the next King County House Authority 5-year plan. The first year, KCHA will be spending $6,745,898.00 in federal tax dollars. This plan will be submitted to the King County House Commissioners in April for final approval. Adoption is anticipated at the Board of Commissioners Meeting on April 13. Their fax number is 206-244-1948.

   We, as residents, feel we are being railroaded; the timeline given does not give us time for review of the money spent or the policies we must live with.

Catherine Howard, President, Wells Wood Family Council