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Pinehurst resident heads to Washington to attend National Alliance of HUD Tenants Conference

Special to The Leader

At the end of June, a local tenant is flying to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT) Conference.
Patty McKinley, a resident of the Optimist Village Apartments in Pinehurst, will be attending the three day conference where she will receive leadership training, meet with top-level U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials, and rally for affordable housing. Optimist Village provides affordable housing for elderly, disabled, and low income people through HUD’s project-based Section 8 program.
From June 21 to 23, NAHT is holding their 21st annual Save Our Homes Conference in Washington, D.C. During the conference, McKinley will be joined by tenants from around the United States to meet with congressional staff, attend workshops, and elect the Board of Directors of NAHT, the only national membership organization of resident groups advocating for lower income families in privately-owned, HUD-assisted multifamily housing. For the first two days, conference workshops will cover affordable housing loss, strategies to preserve troubled housing, and how to build and sustain a tenant group. The third day is designated as “Lobby Day” and involves participants meeting with elected officials and top-level administrators from HUD.
McKinley first got in touch with NAHT in the spring after encountering difficulties while trying to improve conditions at her apartment at Optimist Village, including a stove that had not been working for months. After research online, she contacted NAHT who referred her to the Texas Tenants’ Union (www.txtenants.org), a nonprofit organization in Dallas that seeks to empower tenants in Texas through education and organizing to protect their rights, preserve their homes, improve their living conditions, and enhance the quality of life in their communities.
“The Texas Tenants’ Union was extremely helpful during the whole process,” McKinley said.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to gain more information about HUD policies and to meet face-to-face with HUD officials,” McKinley said about the conference. “I wish more tenants knew how to ‘climb the ladder’ to get their complaints heard. I am really excited to get to learn how to do just that in Washington.”
McKinley acknowledges that approaching authorities is not always easy, particularly when dealing with hostile management.
“When there are managers who hinder their residents’ rights to call HUD or any other authorities, there are some very serious issues at that complex!” McKinley said.
McKinley is looking forward to sharing her story and learning from the stories of other tenants.
“I am hoping I will get the opportunity to share ‘my story’ with others, not only to get help with my situation but also hopefully to help others who may be living under some of the same conditions the residents of Optimist Village are having to endure,” McKinley said.
In addition to McKinley, tenants from HUD properties across Texas will also attend the conference, including Rachel Williams of the Sunlight Manor Apartments in Beaumont who serves on the Board of Directors of NAHT as Vice-President and the representative of the Southwest Region. Each year, the Texas Tenants’ Union helps send HUD tenants in Texas to this conference. In addition to Orange and Beaumont, this year’s group includes tenants from HUD properties in Houston and San Antonio.
The National Alliance of HUD Tenants (www.saveourhomes.org) is a national organization of tenant groups in HUD housing like Optimist Village.  Organized in 1991, NAHT works to preserve affordable housing, protect tenants’ rights, and promote resident control and ownership in low-income housing.