Maintenance initiatives come to public housing units in Prospect Park

A preventative maintenance program will introduce an efficient, data-driven approach to an aging public housing community.

J.D. Duggan

A community of public housing townhomes in the Prospect Park neighborhood will be the site of a first-of-its-kind maintenance program in the coming year as part of ongoing investments.

Glendale Townhomes, the oldest properties owned by Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, will be involved in the Quality Maintenance Program as part of MPHA’s 2019 Moving To Work Annual Plan. The program, along with a nearly-completed weatherization program, will improve efficiency with the goal of significant long-term cost savings to the 66-year-old Glendale buildings.

The QMP offers proactive, data-driven preventative maintenance that incorporates consistent inspections that examine conditions within the units, said Regional Property Manager Anthony Rowe. Following the Sept. 26 approval of the annual plan, the pilot will launch in the townhomes in 2019.

“[The program] saves the taxpayers and the Housing Authority precious resources … we can do it more efficiently than just being reactive towards maintenance needs,” Rowe said.

A weatherization project nearing completion at Glendale will also help improve the building’s efficiency. MPHA made improvements to the insulation of each unit alongside the Sustainable Resources Center with a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The weatherization is expected to complete by the end of November.

Ongoing concerns from residents and local activist groups brought Glendale into the public eye in recent years. Assertions that MPHA would privatize or demolish the 184 units and displace the population garnered attention with the 2014 formation of the Defend Glendale coalition.

Jeff Horwich, director of policy and external affairs, said that although the buildings are very old and may need to be replaced in the future, MPHA still has no concrete plans to remove the homes.

While the current programs are not in response to this tense relationship, Rowe hopes MPHA’s regular work in the community is indicative of the organization’s investment to the residents.

“[Residents are] seeing that things are being done … to improve the value and livability of the property, so they hopefully … see the fact of the buy-in,” Rowe said. “So whatever they’re hearing outside of that, that things are going to get torn down or there [is] going to be some great exodus caused by the housing authority, they’re seeing the investment that we’re making.”

The QMP is the first of its kind in the public sphere in the country, although private owners of universities, hospitals or large businesses sometimes use the method, said Tim Gaetz, assistant director of operations with MPHA.

The maintenance funds saved by this initiative can go towards upkeep of any MPHA property.

“Financially, we’re really a closed system. So, any money that we are able to save by doing things more efficiently is money that can free up to invest in other ways,” Horwich said.