The Lexington Housing Authority is undermining its own good work by taking a cavalier attitude toward neighbors who are unhappy with the way the authority is maintaining some of its real estate.
Especially worrisome is the contention, voiced by housing authority head Austin Simms and his deputy Barry Holmes, that the public agency should be held to no higher standard than slumlords and others who allow their East End properties to deteriorate or become overgrown with weeds.
"Tell me why we should be held to a different standard," Simms asked Herald-Leader reporter Beverly Fortune as they toured housing authority properties scattered through Lexington's low-income East End.
We'll give readers a moment to readjust their jaws before answering that. For starters, the housing authority is entrusted with improving living conditions for low-income people. That's a very good reason for holding the housing authority to a high standard for maintaining its real estate in neighborhoods.
As Simms points out, the local housing authority has spent millions of taxpayer dollars in recent years redeveloping the 80-acre Bluegrass Aspendale public housing project.
The transformative power of bringing nice new homes and apartments and new homeowners to the area is blunted when the housing authority itself owns properties throughout the neighborhood that are neglected, overgrown, covered with litter, used as dump sites for dirt and construction debris and where sidewalks have disintegrated into gravel.
The William Wells Brown Neighborhood Association became so frustrated with the condition of housing authority properties that it asked the Louisville office of the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development to intercede.
Simms contends the neighborhood association never contacted the housing authority about its concerns. But, honestly, given the attitude Simms expressed to a Herald-Leader reporter, it's hard to believe the neighbors would get much satisfaction by bringing their concerns to him.
The housing authority might have some points to make in its defense, especially about sites that are soon to be redeveloped.
But the housing authority should always be a good neighbor, and that requires maintaining real estate in a way that protects and enhances the value of everyone's property.
The housing authority should set high maintenance standards for all its East End properties, if for no other reason than to protect the sizable investment it has already made there on taxpayers' behalf.