HUDSON—Affordable housing is needed, because many people cannot afford market rate housing, said Marie Balle on January 24, shortly after stepping down from the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. She served on the board for over three years, including several months as chair. “There are a lot of people who work 40 hours a week and cannot afford market rate housing,” she said.
The Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) runs the income-restricted 135-unit Bliss apartments and provides vouchers for housing elsewhere in the city of Hudson. Its mission, responsibility, tasks, and goals are to take care of its current tenants and to get affordable housing for every Hudson resident who needs it, Ms. Balle said. That is what the authority was charged with when it was formed about 50 years ago.
“There should be no stigma against those who can’t afford market rate housing,” said Ms. Balle. That stigma “belongs to the last century.”
Marie Balle has lived in Hudson for over a decade, and co-owns Look Apparel and Accessories in Hudson. Former HHA chair Randall Martin asked her if he could nominate her for HHA and then-mayor Rick Rector appointed her to the board in 2018.
Ms. Balle served as the board’s vice-chair in 2019-2020 and became its chair in the fall of 2020.
About eight months ago, the Hudson Common Council appointed Ms. Balle to the city’s Conservation Advisory Council. She found being on two boards “too much.” Last fall she relinquished the position of chair, though she stayed on the HHA Board. But eventually she had to decide between the two boards and her last meeting as a HHA commissioner was January 12. Hudson’s current mayor, Kamal Johnson, is expected to pick her replacement.
Looking back, Ms. Balle reported, “I usually felt good about being on the board. I felt I was doing something important, I felt appreciated, and I like the other board members.”
‘There should be no stigma against those who can’t afford market rate housing.’
Marie Balle, former chair
Hudson Housing Authority
Ms. Balle estimated that in a typical week, when she was an ordinary board member, she spent four to five hours on HHA activities, though some weeks it varied. When she was chair, she spent more time, and “It started feeling like a part-time job.” Nobody gets paid for serving on the board.
“It’s a challenging board,” Ms. Balle reminisced., saying that HHA “has many moving parts.” Finances, oversight by HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development), federal and state decisions all can constrain the board’s own decisions. Financial resources are limited. Funding its initiatives requires the board come up with a plan and “apply and apply and apply” for assistance with no guarantee that the authority will receive the funds. On a positive note. She said communication is an important part of board service and, “this is a very communicative board.”
Over the years, there has been talk of building more housing on HHA land. There has also been talk of replacing the current Bliss buildings.
The latest plan would have the HHA acquire new land, erect new buildings on its current and the new land, re-house its tenants in both non-HHA and new HHA buildings, and demolish its existing buildings. The HHA began working on this plan last year, but administrative changes have held it up.
As for new HHA commissioners Ms. Balle recommends, “Read the documents, ask questions, work with other board members, keep an open mind, and keep in mind the mission: to advocate for affordable housing and for your tenants.”
“Despite all the challenges, Bliss is still here,” Ms. Balle said. “I hope we have a future surprise of more affordable housing units…. I have confidence this board is going to crack the nut.”