Upgrades help Niles Housing Commission go from worst to first
A $1 million upgrade and new management has turned the Niles Housing Commission from one of the worst in the state to one of the best.
“Close to 225 people call Niles Housing Commission their home,” said Sanya Vitale, community development director in Niles. “And without this facility, there isn’t another option available.”
But only two years ago, the Niles Housing Commission was ranked lowest in the state of Michigan.
“When I came on board, it was – um – it was a little scary,” said Shannon Weinberg, the commission’s residential manager.
She said ‘scary’ because when Weinberg was brought in a little less than two years ago, there was a deep lack of trust between those who call the commission home and their leaders.
“It was extremely bad,” said Serita Mason, a resident of the commission who recently became a commissioner. “Management didn’t want to listen to the people.”
Mason has lived in one of the commission’s 50 homes throughout Niles for 12 years.
She became a commissioner within the development about six months ago.
She said the changes made throughout the last 18 months have been wonderful.
“I’m proud to live there,” said Mason. “I love our town. It’s nice to know that we got new improvements.”
The commission’s 129-unit apartment building on Cass Street – and those 50 homes – have recently seen upgrades like new flooring, new appliances, and new closets.
“We’re doing these nice improvements so [residents] can be happy where they’re at,” said Weinberg. “They don’t have to be embarrassed.”
The commission spent the last few years reorganizing the grant money it receives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
That restructuring led to $1 million of infrastructure upgrades – at no additional cost.
“What we believe is that reinvesting in a property where the poorest of our residents have to find housing is really key and important in sharing with the community and saying that we believe in this community and we’re going to start here,” said Vitale.
The Niles Housing Commission now ranks as one of the top in the state.
And the upgrades are not over.
Vitale said the plan is to put a new roof on the apartment building in the near future.
As for the residents, several said Friday that they are extremely grateful for the improvements.
Many are disabled or are going through a tough time, but they either pay rent or do community service to live at the commission.