Work continues at the Serrano Apartments to improve living conditions for residents of the affordable housing complex.
Repair and maintenance work started in earnest after advocates brought to light the deteriorating conditions of the Columbia Pike complex in May. Since then, the County Board has kept tabs on housing nonprofit AHC Inc., which owns the building, and its commitment to make things right.
During the County Board meeting on Tuesday, members said they were pleased to see progress on the physical conditions in the complex. They were dissatisfied, however, with AHC’s communication efforts, after hearing reports from residents and advocates that communication gaps and “disrespectful” treatment persist.
“We’re in the middle, not at the end,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said. “I’m pleased with the micromanagement, candidly, but I think communication is absolutely critical.”
In a letter to the board, Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey said the biggest strides have been removing the rodents and getting a handle on air quality issues.
“It is revealing that little of our September 9, 2021 meeting was dedicated to current physical conditions challenges,” he said.
Susan Cunningham, the interim CEO of AHC appointed after the previous head resigned, said rodent infestation is now down to just three apartments.
Meanwhile, about two dozen units will be abated for asbestos and condensation on cooling pipes. Testing by Arlington County confirmed there were no “systemic air quality issues in the building, no airborne asbestos or lead paint,” she said.
Of the 280 units in the building, the county has inspected all 221 that opted into its inspection program. Arlington County Housing Director Anne Venezia said staff will begin inspecting other aging affordable housing properties for deferred maintenance.
Communication remains a primary concern for the Housing Commission and the County Board. Berkey said to its credit, AHC has made some improvements on that front. Cunningham says AHC now communicates with 85% of residents via text, sends out anonymous third-party surveys, and holds monthly meetings with professional translation services.
But poor treatment of residents continues, longtime advocate Janeth Valenzuela said.
“No one should be asked to put up with dismissive, rude and disrespectful treatment that makes them feel like a problem to be fixed rather than a human being,” she said. “There are fundamental and systemic changes that need to be made at AHC.”
The advocate suggested cultural competency and trauma-informed training for all AHC board members, employees and contractors, as well as customer service training.
Cunningham said a cultural competency curriculum could be in place next year, with trauma-informed training done in-house.
Finally, the County Board urged AHC to prioritize compensating residents whose belongings have been damaged. Residents had reported damage to their possessions when maintenance requests were ignored or mismanaged and during the relocation process some opted into.
AHC has launched a claims process that replicates renters’ insurance, which Cunningham said few residents have.
Although compensation for such losses was a chief priority for the County Board, Valenzuela says a claims system was not set up until ARLnow reported on an online fundraiser for Serrano residents.
AHC “did not offer compensation to residents for property losses until advocates started a public fundraiser that received press attention,” Valenzuela told the Housing Commission, according to Berkey’s letter.
A water rescue operation is underway along Four Mile Run after reports of a drunk man falling down an embankment. The incident happened shortly before 4 p.m. behind the Virginia…
With the Yellow Line bridge and tunnel work complete, Metro is upping service on the line. Starting Sunday, Yellow Line trains will arrive every eight minutes all day, the transit…
In honor of the one-month anniversary of this article, we give you a new Mike Mount cartoon. In case you don’t get the reference, it also riffs on some of…
Discover the advantages of setting up an LLC for an investment property in Woloszyn’s Insights.
Join MoCA Arlington Summer Camps at Marymount University and learn the fundamentals of handbuilding, throwing on a wheel, glazing, and much more. In this two-week course, students will explore hand building techniques, wheel throwing, and strengthen ideas that exemplify individual artist expression guided by professional working artists. Students of all skill levels are welcome!
Visit MoCA Arlington’s Website here and the registration page to secure your space today!
Please join us on Saturday, June 3, from 2 to 4 pm for the Glencarlyn Home Tour in Arlington’s historic Glencarlyn neighborhood. Among the featured homes will be a sparkling new home by A&N Builders at 5604-4th St. South. The inviting front porch opens to a light-filled space featuring high ceiling, wood floors, gas fireplace, Pella windows, Shrock cabinets, Quartz countertop, and JennAir appliances. Doors from the family room open to a large covered porch with a few steps to the level, landscaped rear yard. Upstairs, there are four bedrooms, three bathrooms, laundry room, and linen storage. The big lower level has a rec room, gym space, and a fifth bedroom and bathroom plus even more storage. After leaving the home, stroll to the Ball-Sellers home, the oldest residence in Arlington, the community gardens at the library, Carlin Hall, and the 94 acre Glencarlyn Park. A lovely way to while away a late spring afternoon.
Homebuying 101: Steps to Getting Pre-Approved
Are you ready to jump into homeownership or started considering it but don’t know where to start? Financial preparation is key when thinking about purchasing your first home and the first step to getting pre-approved.
Join ACFCU’s mortgage loan officers
4th of July Celebration & Fireworks
Treat yourself this Independence Day with a world-class, private 4th of July extravaganza at the Military Women’s Memorial – a premier National Capital Region site.
Great food, fun, and the best views of Washington DC’s spectacular fireworks display. Relax, enjoy,