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Casa Rosa’s days numbered

Long-suffering residents of the crumbling Casa Rosa public housing complex in North Las Vegas have for years said the place should be torn down.

Public housing officials are now accelerating plans to do just that.

The North Las Vegas Housing Authority this week decided to actively pursue the demolition of Casa Rosa, which will force the relocation of the 76 families who live there.

The housing authority believes it’s more practical to demolish than repair the decades-old complex near Las Vegas Boulevard North and Owens Avenue, said Don England, director of the agency.

“The needed repairs are too significant,” he said. “The total cost would exceed the value” of the property.

The city last month ordered the North Las Vegas Housing Authority to either repair or demolish many of its family units because they are unsafe. Violations were found in 57 of Casa Rosa’s 101 units, including failing stairways, mold, wiring problems and non-working smoke detectors.

The agency also was told to relocate 21 families as soon as possible because of unsanitary conditions caused by water or sewage that has been leaking for an undetermined length of time.

Those families will begin moving into other housing authority properties this week. They should all be relocated by Thanksgiving, said Carl Rowe, director of the Las Vegas Housing Authority, which is helping its counterpart in North Las Vegas with the relocation of families.

The North Las Vegas agency must get permission to demolish Casa Rosa from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Rowe’s agency is preparing an application to send to HUD for that purpose, he said.

The housing authority also needs to come up with nearly $1.9 million, the estimated cost of relocating all the Casa Rosa residents and demolishing the property, which would take about a year.

Nobody’s sure where the money will come from.

“We don’t have the money for repairs, and we don’t have the money for demolition,” England said. “Either way, we don’t have the money.”

The agency has only about $700,000 to put toward the overall cost, Rowe said.

Officials have acknowledged that the city will have to chip in to help the housing authority.

The North Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $100,000, unsecured, interest-free loan to the housing authority to help relocate the 21 families who must move immediately.

Repayment terms will be negotiated by the city manager.

Four out of five North Las Vegas City Council members, including Mayor Michael Montandon, William Robinson, Robert Eliason and Stephanie Smith, also sit on the city housing authority’s board, an arrangement many have criticized.

“It’s definitely a conflict,” said Julie Tousa, acting president of the Nevada Center for Public Ethics. “It seems to me that if the members are on the board and the council, the housing authority is going to get whatever it wants. There’s not a proper checks and balances system.”

The problems at Casa Rosa came to light only after the Las Vegas Housing Authority contacted the city with concerns about substandard conditions there.

The Las Vegas agency recently assumed maintenance of the properties after HUD officials found the North Las Vegas Housing Authority to be incompetently managed.

Rowe said he contacted the city because he was so alarmed by the conditions at Casa Rosa.

Administrators and board members of the North Las Vegas agency have blamed shrinking public housing funding from HUD for the problems.

Both the North Las Vegas and the Las Vegas housing authorities have plans to get rid of much of their public housing in coming years, replacing it with Section 8 vouchers that can be used to rent housing. Critics have said public housing communities trap families in a cycle of poverty.

But the problems at Casa Rosa have accelerated North Las Vegas’s demolition plans.

Many residents welcomed the news.

“We need help here,” said Cheryl D. Allen, a three-year Casa Rosa resident. “It’s dangerous going up and down the stairs.”

Allen showed North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Shari Buck, the only council member not also on the housing authority’s board, the peeling paint and mold in her bathtub while Buck was touring the property Wednesday afternoon.

“It looks like these conditions have been here for a very, very long time,” Buck said.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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