13News Now has learned new information about the chain of events leading up to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s review of the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority. HUD inspectors will be coming to Portsmouth in December.
Now we've discovered, issues with PRHA were first brought to the federal agency's attention last year. Officials have been keeping a critical eye on the agency responsible for caring for and housing some of Portsmouth’s most vulnerable citizens, including children living in housing projects.
A HUD spokesperson said the original cause for concern started last year when a child living in one of the properties had an elevated blood lead level.
Since then, agency officials said they've followed up to ensure safe, secure and sanitary housing conditions, but alarms sounded again with Hurricane Matthew. HUD explained that is the most recent challenge and the impetus for the inspection. It is a challenge Swanson Homes residents told us brings danger to the kids who live there.
“These are the people you all are helping, you all are giving aid to, to survive, but at the same time how can somebody raise a home with three or four kids and they're living in mildew,” one resident, who didn’t want to reveal his identity, described. “It's just ridiculous.”
There are new development about what the possible consequences of the review might be.
“My gut reaction is it is very damning,” Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Psimas said when the news broke.
At this point, despite strong criticism from several Portsmouth city leaders, it does not look like HUD would come in and take over PRHA. A HUD official told 13News Now there is no current indicator that action would be warranted.
That doesn't mean the feds won't make big changes. We've learned there's no exact list of what actions could be taken. HUD explained it depends on what December's review uncovers.
Interim Director Donnell Brown added PRHA is preparing for the HUD inspectors and gathering the documents they have requested.
HUD is scheduled to examine Portsmouth from December 5th through December 8th.