Democratic State Senate candidate Anna Murray replies to our question about the New Albany Housing Authority.

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Anna K. Murray is a Democratic Party candidate for Indiana State Senate, District 46. The seat currently is held by two-term incumbent Ron Groom, a Republican, and the election is in 2018.

In a Facebook comment, I asked Murray whether she’d be taking a position on the public housing controversy in New Albany. This is her answer, for which she is to be thanked, given the party’s continuing reluctance to engage in discussion.

Since the New Albany housing issue seems to be one of local, and not state government, and since I am not terribly familiar with all of the details, and since it has been very controversial, this has seemed like a great one to not get involved in at this time. However, since you are so insistent to press me on the issue, I will give you a statement. Please bear in mind that I admittedly do NOT have full information, in part because I do not think full information is yet available at this time.

The controversy seems to be about the plans to tear down several low income housing units, and what will happen next to those residents, and whether these decisions were made in a procedurally proper manner.

The purported rationale for the decision is that the units are in such disrepair that it would be more financially feasible to simply rebuild. There seems to be some pushback on whether this is true, or whether some units in particularly bad disrepair were showcased anecdotally to give a false impression of the state of the situation. I do not know which is correct.

Additionally, the new consensus seems to be that poor people are generally better off mixed in amongst the community, instead of being crammed into a centralized location, ie “the projects.” This makes sense so that children from poor families can intermingle with children with higher incomes (and vice versa), and not feel like they are stigmatized from where they reside. Same goes for adults, of course. So from that perspective, switching to a voucher system has some good things going for it.

On the other hand, there is a shortage of affordable housing, and the question arises whether there would be enough units available to accommodate all those with vouchers, and whether the vouchers would be sufficient to cover rent and utilities at the available locations.

It is my understanding that the demolition of the public housing units is going to take place over a course of years, and the details are not fully fleshed out yet. That says to me there is a possibility that minds might change and new plans might be made. It does seem like the residents’ fears could be assuaged if they knew what was going to happen next after razing, and when that might occur. Perhaps the whole issue could have been thought through a little more from beginning to end before making a decision without knowing what the next steps would be.

As to the procedural aspects, whether the Physical Needs Assessment should have been done, whether HUD policies were or were not violated, whether the firing of Bob Lane was appropriate or strong-arming, I am really not in a position to know the answers to these questions. I was not involved in any of this, and am not an expert in the inner workings of the housing authority.

All I know is that people with low or fixed incomes need to have places to live and a decent quality of life. There are many ways to get there, and I have to hope that despite the differences of opinions, the housing authority will find a way to make it work. I certainly don’t think that anyone wants to see residents being made homeless.

Now, what I’d really love to talk to you about with regards to local housing issues is turning lawns into gardens so that everyone has access to fresh, healthy foods and starts living more sustainably. In fact, if we are going to redo this whole public housing situation, this might be a great opportunity to design some communities that have centralized gardens and chicken coops that can be worked and shared by all- installing cisterns to catch rainwater and other features that make it functional, efficient, beautiful, healthy and earth-friendly.

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