Residents riled about designated gardening areas

HUD wants Yellow Springs tenants to move their planting.

The housing agency, however, maintains the changes are to keep in good standing with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. There’s heightened emphasis put on site and curb appeal, said GMHA Executive Director Brenda Smallwood, and failing a HUD inspection in this context could cost the agency precious funding.

“Our tenants are our main priority but we also have to take into consideration new and upcoming regulations,” Smallwood said.

At Lawson Place apartments, a public housing apartment complex in Yellow Springs, tenants are speaking out. Several people have circulated petitions in objection to the mandate. More than 200 signatures have been collected.

The Yellow Springs Village Council has been approached and President Judith Hempfling said residents have council’s attention.

“My own feeling is that HUD should be giving them more points, not less, for (their gardens),” she said. “(The gardens) increase the quality of life of the people that live there.”

Tenants may need to remove some plants as a result of the changes. GMHA originally asked residents to relocate their planting by July 1, but the deadline has been extended to Oct. 1.

“People are very upset,” said Patricia High, who has lived at Lawson Place for 12 years. “I know that my garden is extremely neat and tidy and enhances the area.”

The regulation affects all residents of GMHA housing, which has 361 public housing units in Greene County.

James Cunningham of the Cincinnati HUD office said HUD’s standard is the published Uniform Physical Condition Standard (UPCS) and the Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) protocol.

“The REAC physical inspection score incorporates the ground, but it’s generic in the fact that bushes (vegetation) can’t contact the building exterior, lawn must be mowed, etc.,” Cunningham said in an email. “There is no HUD requirement mandating a resident garden or where it needs to be placed — it’s a PHA call as owner of the property.”

Lawson Place has approximately 40 units, and each tenant has 225 square feet to plant, which is the most allowed to any of GMHA’s complexes. Some, for example, might have 60 square feet per tenant to plant, according to Smallwood.

But High insists that residents’ gardening space should not be limited if it’s kept up.

“We talk to the mowers,” she said. “They say they don’t have any problem. That’s not an issue.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-6983 or andrew .sedlak@coxinc.com.

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