On Wednesday, August 8, 2018, at the Florida Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (FAHRO) Annual Convention and Trade Show, the Lakeland Housing Authority was named the 2018 Housing Authority of the Year for the state of Florida. LHA is the first housing authority in Polk County to receive this award in the 70-year history of FAHRO. Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz wrote a letter of support to nominate LHA for the award. LHA was selected for the award after a series of accomplishments.
After being designated as a Financially At Risk PHA in 2011, LHA was required to enter into a Corrective Action Plan and Recovery Plan with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2012 and 2013, respectively. LHA has not only completed both Plans, but also received three (3) consecutive years of a High Performer designations for its Public Housing and Section 8 programs by HUD from 2015 to 2017. Other accomplishments include:
Circle K - LHA negotiated a deal to sell a vacant lot on their HOPE VI site for this new commercial development. The lot had been vacant for nearly 20 years. The store is Circle K’s latest proto-type designed to compete with Wawa and Thornton stores by featuring a hot kitchen. Circle K has improved the quality of life at the HOPE VI site by employing two people with ties to LHA and its YouthBuild program, providing scholarships to a school in the neighborhood, and sponsoring a job fair in the neighborhood. The store opened in October 2017
Micro-Cottages at Williamstown - An innovative community design of tiny homes for the elderly. The 48-unit community will provide affordable housing for seniors with a preference with veterans. Each of the one- and two- bedroom units are approximately 550 square feet. The site will also provide health care services on site in cooperation with a community partner. LHA served as the Developer and Property Manager for this development. The property is scheduled to open in September 2018.
Twin Lakes Estates – This new development will replace an old public housing community with approximately 318 mixed income rental housing units. Construction on the first phase started in June 2018.
YouthBuild Lakeland – The LHA has administered this program for 10 consecutive years. They have maintained a 90% success rate with students achieving their GED, created a Certified Nursing Assistants and Home Health Aid certification components and provides on-the-job construction experience and training opportunities.
The LHA has been actively involved in the affordable housing industry by seeking ways to create additional affordable rental opportunities for low income families. There are two new affordable housing redevelop projects underway in our service area, Twin Lakes Estates and Micro-Cottages at Williamstown. These two projects are the first new construction sponsored by the Housing Authority in the past several years. In addition to managing public housing properties, the LHA is also approved to manage Low Income Housing Tax Credit properties. The LHA has passed all of its HUD, REAC and tax credit audits and maintained a 99% occupancy rate at its properties for the past four years.
LHA Executive Director Ben Stevenson said “we are very appreciative of the recognition by our peers. My staff has worked very hard over the past few years to turn the agency around.”
LHA also received 2018 Best Practice Awards in honor and recognition of exceptional practice and quality of service for its Youth-Build Program and Micro-Cottages at Williamstown projects. The Youth-Build newsletter, the Achiever, received the 2018 Newsletter Award in honor and recognition for exceptional content and design.