Dec. 30, 2005 — The federal manager who oversees the V.I. Housing Authority will soon be replaced by a new manager, according to a spokesman at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Word about the pending removal of Jose Bosque-Perez came Thursday, as questions rose about his whereabouts during a public meeting called by angry residents of one St. Thomas housing community.
Bosque-Perez is the second federal housing manager to control the Housing Authority since HUD placed it in receivership in August 2003. When he took control last January it was a return trip, as Bosque-Perez worked with local housing officials in the 1990s.
According to one lawmaker who attended the meeting at Paul M. Pearson Gardens, it was the second attempt by tenants to call Bosque's attention to building and maintenance problems. On both occasions, they said he was a no-show.
"The reason that no one was at the meeting was we're in the process of changing receivers," said Jerry Brown, spokesman for HUD. "Mr. Bosque is being returned to his normal duties and we're bringing in a new receiver soon."
Brown said a replacement should be named by early January.
Sen. Celestino White, a long-time advocate for residents of public housing, had predicted several weeks ago that HUD would be bringing in a new manager.
"We would hope that we would start getting answers," White said Thursday.
He praised the managers of various Housing Authority divisions, including maintenance, who showed up at the Wednesday meeting. Upon returning to Paul M. Pearson Gardens the following day, he said work crews could be seen addressing some of the complaints raised in the meeting.
But White said even with short-term solutions making an appearance, there is no hint of when the receivership — a temporary solution — will be relinquished.
"These receivers feel they dont have to answer to anyone, whether its the governor of the Virgin Islands, the president of the Legislature, or the Legislature," White said. "They simply dont answer. And when meetings are set up for the tenants, they simply dont show up."
Brown said its taken this long to resolve some of the financial and other problems that landed the Housing Authority into receivership in the first place. The most recent step, he said, was the payment of $4 million to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority to cover unpaid utility bills.
"We wouldnt have taken over if there werent dire circumstances taking place there. We just recently made payment on the $4 million water bill there," Brown said. "Weve put a plan into place to improve maintenance practices and everything else there. Its going to take some time."
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