HUD director meets with city, JMHA officials

STEUBENVILLE – The acting field office director at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Cleveland office met with city and Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority officials Monday and will attend the JMHA regular meeting later this month.

Ray Keyser, along with Cleveland HUD staff members and a representative from U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s, R-Marietta, office attended the regular meeting between the city and JMHA.

“We came here to monitor the monthly meeting. We are trying to come up with solutions to the concerns about crime stemming from the public housing units. We want to make sure the public housing in Jefferson County is not being used as a platform for criminal activities,” Keyser said following the meeting.

Keyser said he and Cleveland staff representatives also will attend the monthly JMHA meeting.

“We have no magic bullets. There are no foolproof solutions. But we are putting together recommendations to address problems and concerns raised in recent months,” Keyser said.

“We have also learned there are possible problems in privately owned project based properties so we are bringing those properties into our conversation. We want to help this community resolve criminal activities that may be related to public housing or properties that receive federal assistance,” Keyser said.

First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto, who also serves on the JMHA, attended the Monday meeting and said Keyser “is taking this issue very seriously. He wants to resolve the crime issue.”

“I thought we had an excellent meeting. People are talking about resolving the crime issues,” noted DiLoreto.

DiLoreto also said Johnson will be in Steubenville in December for “a follow-up to the meeting we had here in August.”

Johnson met with city and JMHA officials as well as representatives from the Cleveland HUD office on Aug. 22 behind closed doors to discuss violent crime in public housing in the city.

“This issue has got to be addressed. We are seeing the impact on the business community and on enrollment at Franciscan University. There are very serious crimes, but I come away from today’s meeting optimistic we can make a difference,” Johnson said during a press conference following the private meeting at City Hall.

“We had all of the stakeholders at the table here and we came away with several things we need to collaborate on as we move forward. We agreed to hold monthly meetings of the local stakeholders and every three months I will return to hold a meeting with the stakeholders,” Johnson announced.

The meeting came 14 months after Johnson met publicly with city officials during a roundtable discussion regarding crime in public housing and Section 8 housing assistance properties.

That meeting in June 2012 led to Johnson calling upon HUD to investigate alleged criminal activity in public housing units in Steubenville.

DiLoreto invited Johnson to return to Steubenville to discuss public housing crime issues.

The veteran city councilman has been a leading advocate to reduce the number of public housing units and Section 8 housing assistance vouchers in the city.