A Guam Business Magazine series that connects businesses to government agencies
Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority
- Phone: (671) 477-9851
- Website: www.ghura.org
- No. of staff: 96 employees
- Governing legislation: While Guam Public Law 6-135 is the enabling statute, the agency is 100% federally funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Executive director: Ray S. Topasna
“We’re in the business of housing families and building communities,” says Ray S. Topasna, executive director of GHURA. The authority is responsible for public housing and community development projects on Guam.
Functions and services
- GHURA is responsible for 750 public housing units throughout Guam, is the administrator for the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) — which provides monetary rental assistance to low-income families — and manages Guma Trankilidat, a housing complex for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities. “Collectively, we house … about 3,200 families and individuals,” Topasna says.
- Administers HUD Community Development Block Grants for community development projects such as police stations, fire stations, community centers, healthcare centers and sports facilities.
- The allocating agency for the federal low-income housing tax credit program under the Internal Revenue Service. “We allocate somewhere in the vicinity of $2.5 million a year,” Topasna says.
- Partners with non-profit and nongovernmental organizations — including The Salvation Army, Catholic Social Services, Elim Pacific Ministries and Guma Mami Inc. — to provide additional programs and services to combat homelessness and better the community.
Highlights and challenges
GHURA has several affordable housing and community improvement projects underway or already completed in 2019, Topasna says. While many construction projects on the island have been stalled due to H-2 visa shortages, GHURA has been able to make steady progress on all developments. “We’re able to get projects done a lot more expeditiously because we handle the construction management in house,” he says.
The Dededo Sports Complex baseball field improvements — which include a new facility with a platform, concession stand and bathrooms — and CoreTech’s Summer Town Estates III affordable housing development were completed earlier this year.
“We’ll soon be cutting the ribbon on the Central Precinct Command in Sinajana. That’s a $3.1 million project, with the property about $4.1 million,” Topasna says. GHURA will also be cutting the ribbon for updates at the Sinajana and Umatac baseball fields.
Several new projects are in the early stages of development, including two new housing projects under the IRS allocated tax credits — Ironwood Villas Phase II and Summer Town Estates IV. GHURA will also be building a new Sinajana Fire Station adjacent to the Police Department pending the approval of HUD.
While many projects are underfoot, Topasna says funding continues to be a challenge for the association. “We have about 3,900 on our wait list and we have several wait lists. So, there is a lot of people out there that need our help. We can only fund as much as the federal government allows us to.” Topasna says GHURA is working on creative solutions to combat the island’s homelessness problem. One possibility may be leveraging valuable GHURA properties.
Source: Raymond S. Topasna, executive director for GHURA and the GHURA website
Northern Marianas Housing Corp.
- Phone: (670) 234-6866
- Website: www.nmhcgov.net
- No. of staff: 37
- Governing legislation: The NMHC (formerly known as the Mariana Island Housing Authority) was created under Executive Order 94-3, but the agency is 100% federally funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Director: Jesse Palacios
The NMHC is the Northern Mariana Islands’ principal provider for public housing and community development programs.
Functions and services
- Manages the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) and the New Construction Program — which includes 132 housing units on Saipan, Tinian and Rota — to assist low-income families find affordable housing.
- Administrator for the HOME Investment Partnership Program with the aim to expand the supply of affordable housing and increase home ownership opportunities for low-income families.
- Administers HUD Community Development Block Grants and the Hearth Emergency Solutions Grant which “focuses on rapid rehousing and homeless prevention for individuals and families that are homeless and are at risk of losing their homes,” according to the NMHC website.
- The allocating agency for the federal low-income housing tax credit program under the Internal Revenue Service.
Highlights and challenges
The NMHC has many projects and partnerships underway to better the community and improve affordable housing available in the region. According to Jacob Muna, office manager/procurement officer for the NMHC, the agency recently completed the installation of 82 panels on 82 multi-family units. Additionally, the NMHC has a number of CDBG projects including the San Vicente Central Park Construction, the renovation of Tinian Gymnasium, the Koblerville Youth Learning Center expansion and enhancement project and the rehabilitation of the Kagman Community Center, Muna says. Several development projects are also underway through the IRS’s low-income housing tax program including the Sandy Beach Homes, Ironwood Estates, Tasi Homes and Saipan Comfort Homes.
While the NMHC is working towards many projects, Muna says the organization does face challenges. There is a need for “additional funding to accommodate all families and individuals in the Section 8 program, HOME program and ESG program; [a] lack of rental housing/units for Section 8 HCV participants; [and a] lack of construction contractors to build and rehabilitate homes,” he says.
Source: Jacob Muna, office manager/procurement officer for the NMHC and the NMHC website.