After hearing from both the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority administration and its management company, Common Council members are no closer to understanding how some public housing tenants were left without heat and hot water in the middle of winter.
Shinda Management Corp. appeared before a Council committee two weeks ago, and BMHA Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett appeared this week to answer questions about the utility problems.
But the Council will toss the matter to the BMHA Board of Commissioners because lawmakers still don't know who is responsible.
“According to Shinda, they followed through. According to BMHA, they didn’t,” said Council President Darius G. Pridgen. “When we close this investigation, I’m probably just as confused as when we opened."
Sanders-Garrett told the committee the authority met with Shinda “about our unhappiness ... We also have provided timeliness for corrective action and some of those actions have already been addressed.” BMHA also has set aside two units for families to move into if they have no heat and hot water from systems that cannot be repaired, she added.
When asked specifically about the disconnect between Shinda and the Housing Authority, it was “because the directive was not followed” by Shinda, she said.
“Our policy is to relocate that family" if a problem can't be fixed in 24 hours, Sanders-Garrett said, referring to tenants in two units without heat but who did not want to move into a hotel. “I understand that did not happen.”
A “rather inconclusive” final report will be written, Pridgen said, “that will state what we were told by Shinda, what we were told by BMHA, and it will send a very strong letter to the BMHA board that will say that these type of problems need a system to be worked out.”
The lack of heat and hot water at some Frederick Douglass units stemmed from antiquated heating systems that could not be repaired and needed to be replaced. In one case, it would have cost more than $12,000 and Shinda needed BMHA approval for any expenditure over $5,000. The BMHA refused because the complex is slated for rehabilitation this spring.
Shinda ultimately was able to get a refurbished heating system for $3,500 – below the $5,000 threshold.
Still, Pridgen pointed out Tuesday, Shinda was told not to repair or replace the heating/hot water units and was not given further direction from BMHA after the tenants refused to relocate.
Meanwhile, a tenant leader at A.D. Price, also managed by Shinda, said they met with BMHA executives to work out problems with bugs, nonworking emergency response cords and other issues.